The best cover art for an Xbox Indie game may very well belong to Deadline A Go! (listed as デッドラGO! on the dashboard), a Japanese tower defense game set in high school as are seemingly most things out of Japan. Unfortunately, as with many other things out of Japan, Deadline A Go! is entirely in Japanese, making it difficult for those such as myself to comprehend what's going on in the game. Thankfully, the tower defense genre is an established one by this point to where players will have little trouble recognizing the goals and mechanics of the game along with a bit of trial-and-error to figure out the rest. Accessing each of the available selections will reveal the title menu options -- NEW GAME - TUTORIAL - HIGH SCORE - CREDITS - EXIT -- and a bit of guesswork will further open up the game to the foreign player. Even though Deadline A Go! is more text heavy than the usually import friendly title, it's nothing which will block more patient players from enjoying what the game has to offer.
Despite aping a new but increasingly saturated genre, Deadline A Go! stands out from the crowd thanks to its setting and some gameplay elements. The towers here are represented by five schoolchildren of varying abilities: the nerd with glasses commands robots to the field, a spikey haired boy wearing a shirt with flames summons an Ifrit, the girl with the yellow bandanna shouts through a megaphone, a girl in a blue dress attacks with an ice demon, and some Tintin looking kid who throws out pigs. Players move a cursor about the screen and can open a menu by pressing the A-button which will allow them to place any of five student "towers" on the map prior to the start of a wave. The game displays the range of the selected unit and will indicate whether or not it can be placed where the cursor lay, any any student can be repositioned afterward by selecting the first option on the menu which pops up after selecting him or her with the A-button. Each unit costs money depending upon the range of its attacks, and players earn additional money by defeating certain types of enemies. As with all tower defense games, the oddball creatures march along a predetermined path toward an exit (here initiated with the X-button) while these kids attack still seated in their desk, mowing down wave after wave until the game ends.
One of the interesting twists is that the students possess a regenerating hit point and experience gauge which fluctuates with each attack. When a unit attacks, it loses a bit of health but gains one experience point. Some characters attack quicker than others and lose health faster as a result, while other times a character can burn through his or her health bar by being placed along the front lines and having to contend with each and every enemy in a given wave. When a student's health is depleted, he or she passes out and is unable to attack until the health meter completely refills. Items are available as well for purchase and use though the Japanese descriptions will require some experimentation to see what the effects are when used. The students themselves initially appear to be copycats with no discernible difference though observation and a few plays will show otherwise, the most obvious being that the girl's megaphone stuns enemies on contact. Some characters are stronger and weaker depending upon the enemy type, and it's tough to see which is which given the unusual enemy styling and perhaps due to the language barrier. While it certainly seems that each of the four seated characters could represent an element (earth, fire, water, and air) given their coloring and appearance, it's difficult to say for certain as the game doesn't make any such connection obvious on screen via elemental symbols on the enemies and students.
The graphics are excellent with wonderful artwork and character detail. While the school setting is rather plain, the students and enemies are all well made sprites which animate nicely. The enemies are a varied bunch, mostly inspired by classroom items such as erases and paintbrushes, and the kids and their attacks look great and are clearly defined despite their small size. Health meters over each student help the player keep tabs on the action, and the enemy list on the left and status on the right of the display prove attractive and helpful. I do feel as though I'm missing out on part of the charm as I am unable to comprehend what the excited luchador at the bottom of the screen is exclaiming as the rounds progress. The title artwork is a hot-blooded winner, and the menus and overall presentation are top-notch. It's too bad developer Zen Ryoku Tei couldn't spring for an English translation because Deadline A Go! has all the makings of a fantastic game but one crippled for Western audiences due to its language barrier. While the game reminds playable as any other, it's not a title one can recommend to everyone as some people will not be so willing to play around with the items and options to figure out what they do. Still, for those willing to try it out, Deadline A Go! offers a zany, enjoyable Japanese take on tower defense game which is a good bit better than Squeenix's own XBLA Crystal Defenders.