Virtual generals use their magical Apple tablet as a command center to challenge the evil Lord Malagar and his minions in the action-packed, tower-defense epic Kingdom Rush Frontiers (Ironhide Game Studio, rated 9+, reviewed on iPad 2, $4.99).
I'm such a fan of this real-time strategy genre of mobile gaming that I quickly got lost in this addictive adventure starring more than 50 varieties of fantastical foes.
Frontiers offers about 15 battle locations, fought from a near over-the-top perspective and spread out over deserts crawling with giant scorpions, jungles filled with hostile natives and caverns teaming with lizard men.
As in the original, a player positions four types of towers (soldier barracks, archer garrisons, Dwarven artillery bombardments and magical mage shelters) around various pathways.
He waits for the pint-sized enemies to attack as they try and exit through a path past the towers. If too many enemies clear the paths, the player suffers defeat.
As the very cartoony battles unfold, complete with moans of anguish and battle cries, he collects coins to upgrade and/or buy and place more towers as enemies perish.
The upgrades really add depth to the action and include Necromancer Towers (thwart dark magic and attacks from the undead) and Assassins Guilds (agile warriors ready to ambush foes stealthily).
Commanders have some ability to position soldier groups on a path, and have access to such extras as deploying a small group of troop reinforcements and fireballs reigning down from the sky.
A welcomed wrinkle adds heroes to the mix immediately (three eventually unlocked while the others require purchase using real cash) with each having upgradable skills such as Cronan, a barbarian that can summon boars and falcons to attack.
Of course, commanders tap on the iPad's screen to deliver upgrades, build new towers or unleash powers.
The panic factor increases deeper into the game's maps as a player will engage such foes as sorcerers unleashing hordes of mummies, a massive genie, king-sized executioners splattering troops with one swing of the ax and purple parasites that lay eggs in a soldier who turns into a monster.
Terrain will cause additional problems as giant Sandworms will pop up from the ground to devour a player's troops on the desert, or a witch doctor will sacrifice a princess and cause a volcano to spew out lava balls on your soldiers.
As an example of the waves of ridiculous action, I had two mechs firing guided missiles at giant crows while dozens of angry tribesmen (protected by a shaman) were rushing past artillery towers (creating mini earthquakes, no less) while crossbow forts unleashed endless streams of arrows and small legions of templar knights lie in wait to meet the frenetic ground assault.
Kingdom Rush Frontiers exists as an accessible and strategy-rich game perfect for an extended car trip or simply appreciating its rich, colorful universe.
It's easily one of the best tower defense games for younger players in the family.
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