Commander is an epic, classic and lovely tower defense where the path is dynamic: it evolves in time and you can modify it! You can also control spaceships to help you in your mission to save humanity and blow up planets when you have no other choice. What do you want more? Lasers, missiles, particle effects, nice classical music, retro sound effects, cute colorful pixels and a lot of fun.
I think next to shooters, tower defense is probably the easiest genre of game to make. Send some enemies out on a predefined path, let players select weapons to build from a menu, and call it a day. Cookie cutter tower defense games have flooded the Internet over the past few years, looking for a slice of the genre's popularity since the release of Desktop Tower Defense, arguably the most popular and accessible tower defense game out there. Yet, Desktop Tower Defense didn't entirely play by the rules the genre is known for, and neither does Jodi Giordano's amazing Commander World 1, a game which breaks beyond the me-too mold to provide a thoroughly innovative and enjoyable experience which captivates players with its terrific sense of style and design.
The basic tower defense mechanics of Commander - World 1 are as familiar as any other, and the game brushes off the basics with an aloof air, swiftly labeling its nameless armament for the familiar functions they serve in the game. There's "the basic one," the standard shooter which the game calls "a looser" due to its inexpensive price and weak output. An orange laser can "kill many enemies at once," a pink mercenary proudly states that it will catch any fast moving targets, and a blue missile launcher can fire huge projectiles for tons of damage. Finally, an orange something-or-other does the job of slowing down the enemies' progress through the field -- all commonplace elements of the tower defense genre which any fan will expect a game to have. This is pretty much where the familiarity ends, however, and where Commander - World 1 proves itself as one of the more innovative tower defense games around.
Commander - World 1 is tower defense in space, and the aforementioned mercenaries can be dispatched on preset markers found on a solar system's planets. The route taken by the enemies loops around the planets, and everything on the field shifts and moves as the game wears on. Some planets are more prone to changing location during a match, and it is something players will have to keep in mind when deploying units. One unique mercenary will allow the player to alter the enemies' path around a planet of his or her choosing, good for lengthening a route or forcing the mobs closer to stronger mercenaries. Beyond the planetary installations, players can click on an empty, non-marked space on a planet to dispatch one of four special actions: a powerful jet fighter the player can control, a unit to collect minerals from dead enemies for cash, a bomb to detonate an entire planet, and finally a call to the The Resistance for help. Commander - World 1 truly looks and feels like nothing before it, a tower defense games which tweaks genre expectations to deliver a satisfying and fresh take on the popular genre.
The game oozes style, too, with its chunky pixelated planets looking quite pretty over the ebb and flow of space. The backgrounds are beautifully colored and give the game a highly stylized look; the "retro" design does not feel like a visual shortcut. The sharp coloring and clean shapes of the mercenaries and their enemies make everything immediately identifiable, and the menu design is as simple and user friendly as could be. The brilliant style and gameplay aren't perfect, however, as there will be times during gameplay where overlapping planets can make it difficult to select units, and the simplified menu can allow players to accidentally sell units as it defaults to the sale option when funding is too low to upgrade. Commander - World 1 also will exhibit some slow down at times depending upon how much action is on-screen, which seems odd given how relatively few items there can be on screen at any time compared to some other games. Nonetheless, these are minor hiccups in a very stylish product, and the Chopin soundtrack and tongue-in-cheek presentation contribute to making Commander - World 1 one great looking and sounding game.
Nine worlds need saving in Commander - World 1, and that's just too few for a game this good. Thankfully, at just 80 points, the nine levels spread across three difficulties is more than enough to offer value and depth to players until the inevitable release of Commander - World 2. Until then, Commander - World 1 is the best tower defense game on Xbox Indies and one of the best available, period. It's a fantastic game not to be missed, its couple of shortcomings so minor in light of everything it achieves through solid and innovative design.