Last year's reveal of the Nintendo Web Framework was a welcome announcement to independent game developers interested in releasing their work on Wii U. The new platform was quiet at first, but in recent months we've seen an increasing number of games releasing on the eShop that were born of this development environment. Opening a platform like this is great news for developers that might not have the finances to create a masterpiece who still want to share their games with the world, but it also has the unfortunate side effect of allowing sub-par titles to flood the marketplace, not unlike what we saw happen with both Wii and DSiWare.
Of the limited games that have been developed via the Web Framework platform, the latest addition is a tower defense outing titled ZaciSa's Last Stand. Like so many tower defense games before it, the gameplay here is more about coming up with a working strategy than it is about taking action. There are six different stages, each with it's own unique setup and base to defend, but the goal always remains the same – fend off your attacking enemies for as long as possible.
Enemies come at you in waves — referred to in-game as levels — that are continuous and seamlessly flow into one another. Despite the continuous nature of combat, the action can be slowed down, sped up, or paused completely at any point. Having access to variable speeds means that if your current strategy — which is limited entirely to unit placement — isn't working, you have a chance to upgrade or rearrange units in the middle of a level. Your units can only be placed on specifically marked spots on the map, with each stage allowing five to six to be active at any given time. If that gameplay sounds familiar, that's because it is. ZaciSa’s Last Stand feels like any other tower defense game that you may have played before, but it lacks the variety and depth that recent entries in the genre tend to possess.
There are five different units available, but they mostly do the exact same thing as one another. Three of the available units simply shoot your enemies as they approach the base that you're attempting to protect while the other two act more defensively, causing enemies to slow down while buying you time to attack. The three attacking units have different strength, speed, and ranges associated with them, all of which can be upgraded with money that you earn by destroying enemies, but they all have the same look and essentially serve the same purpose. If it hasn’t been made clear enough, the gameplay lacks variety, much to its detriment.
The only unit that really stands out as being even with mentioning is the Drone, an offensive player that isn't fixed to one spot; instead, the Drone moves around the map, latching onto enemies and dealing damage while slowing them down. Not only that, but the Drone can also be controlled by a second player using a Wii Remote — place up to four drones and you and four of your friends can join in locally. The controls are limited to navigating the map and choosing which enemy to attack, but this is at least an interesting way to attempt incorporating co-operative play in a decidedly single player genre.
As a budget title, it's no surprise that the gameplay is basic, but the presentation also does it's part to solidify the fact that this game was made without any significant capital behind it. Artistically, the style looks hand-drawn and feels unique, almost like drawings in a student's notebook; the downside to this stylistic decision is that the whole thing is exceedingly bland. All of the environments include flat black backdrops with grey set pieces stuck in them, some of which look scribbled in crayon. Your units and bases are circles, and most of your enemies are also simple geometry repeated ad nauseam. Each stage has a different layout that dictates from which direction you will be attacked, but they all really look the same; the soundtrack is just as underwhelming, looping and repeating the same digital tracks over and over again.
ZaciSa's Last Stand is absolutely a budget title through and through; to its detriment, it feels exactly that. While the gameplay isn't necessarily flawed, it is completely unoriginal and does nothing to draw its players in. All of the stages look different in layout, but they feel exactly the same, and the lack of variety in both your units and enemy type only adds to the monotony. There is a glimmer of hope that more varied content is on the way via the developer's website, but as of right now this tower defense title feels all too familiar and is entirely too bland.