iPad Game Review: Starfall HD Reviewed by Tom Slayton
Starfall HD is an excellent tower defense game where you are tasked with defending a starbase against a neverending onslaught of attackers. You must make hard choices between different types of defensive weapons, place them strategically, manage research, upgrades, and power; and you must do all of this with waves of enemies breathing down your throat (figuratively speaking).
As with all tower defense games, success in Starfall HD hinges on your ability to select the right combination of defensive units and place them for maximum effectiveness. Your ability to purchase these units is limited by your cashflow, which is in turn limited by your ability to destroy enemy units; the more you destroy, the more money you make. Following that line of logic, the more money you make, the more defensive units you can purchase, which in turn allow you to destroy more, and more valuable enemies. To further add to the challenge, Starfall HD requires that you provide adequate power to all your weapons. It also gives you the option to research additional units and upgrade the ones that you have. These units are unlocked by spending credits, which are earned by successfully completing levels. If this sounds confusing, it?s not. The interface is clean and all of this is handled very intuitively.
There are six different types of base structures, five support structures, and six defensive towers. The latter are comprised of mini guns, lasers, rocket launchers, plasma towers, missile launchers, and chain guns; all of which are upgradeable. The towers differ, not only graphically, but also in speed, range, and cost. These differences ensure that you won?t be able to get away with loading up on just one type of tower as the game has a sort of rock/paper/scissors aspect to it.
In addition to a campaign, Starfall HD also provides you with the opportunity to play a quick skirmish game, or even play in sandbox mode. If you were hoping to dive straight into either of those, however, you will need to either play (at least partially) through the campaign first or play the same skirmish game repeatedly because most of the maps are locked, and can only be accessed by spending the aforementioned credits. Not my favorite way to do things but I can live with it because the campaign is very well-crafted and a hoot to play. Lastly, if you're achievement-oriented, Starfall HD is Openfeint-enabled, and comes with tons of achievements to unlock. Obsessive completionists out there, rejoice!
The graphics in Starfall HD took me completely by surprise. I had seen some screenshots and I was a bit underwhelmed to say the least. However, within the first minute of playtime, I knew that I had completely underestimated how this game looks; trust me, screenshots do NOT do it justice. Everything is rendered at what appears to be the highest possible resolution, and the animation is among the smoothest I've ever seen in any game, iOS, MacOS, or PC. The graphics aren't flashy, but they are crisp, clean, and you won't be reaching for your glasses every time you play. the only thing I found myself missing is a bit more color on the maps. The developers seem to have gone for an uncluttered look and it certainly helps you see what is going on, but I can't help but wish for a splash of color or two on those backgrounds.
The soundtrack in Starfall HD is first rate. The stirring symphonic score provides great atmosphere without being overly repetitive or annoying. Unfortunately, if you prefer to listen to the dulcet tones of Iron Maiden while you play, I'm afraid you're out of luck. As of right now, at least, there is no iPod music support. The sound effects are also quite good. They are beautifully sampled and tend to be more subtle than overstated. This is something for which my wife is quite thankful, as I hate playing games with the volume muted, and I do most of my iPad gaming with her asleep next to me.
Starfall HD is the best Tower Defense game available for the iPad. The ability to research and upgrade units, as well as the need to plan your power grid, adds a great layer of strategy without feeling cumbersome. The graphics are unbelievably sharp, and the sound compliments the gameplay nicely. If you like TD games, this is an insta-buy. If you are on the fence or have never played one, the clean interface and sandbox mode make this a great one to start your new obsession with.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 5 - Surprisingly good graphics. Super crisp, with silky smooth animation Sound: - 4 - Good sound effects; the kind you won?t be muting. Great musical score, however, no iPod support. Controls: - 5 - Intuitive and accurate touch and drag interface. organized and uncluttered menus. Gameplay: - 5 - Classic tower defense with a few new twists. varied and upgradeable units, and a deep research tree.
Playing Hints and Tips:
Early in the game when money is scarce and there is lots of room to build, more units is better than upgraded units. Later in the game, when you are flush with cash and space is scarce, upgrades are the better choice. Don't forget to leave room for power plants. Having to tear out a row of turrets because you can't power them is a bit frustrating.