Anomaly: Warzone Earth HD [Android Game Review]

YouTube link for mobile viewing

Oh, how I love me some tower defense games. Between classics like Robo Defense, Fieldrunners HD, and even GRave Defense HD, I'm never hurting for ways to stretch my brain and figure out the best way to mow down hordes of hapless enemies entering my territory. (As a matter of fact, should Earth ever be invaded, tower defense-style, I'm on retainer to get us out of the mess.)

The problem with the myriad of tower defense games out there, though, is that mechanically, they're all the same. You can vary the enemy, add in cool, unique towers (suited to your game's environment, of course), but at the end of the day, it's the same. They walk in, I pew-pew, end of story.

Anomaly: Warzone Earth HD looks to change this. Instead of you setting up the towers, the bad guys do that. What does that leave you to do? Be the hapless hordes of invaders trying to show them who's boss. At face value it sounds insane awesome, and let me tell you, it is quite excellent, indeed.

Let's start by just talking about the graphics -- they're gorgeous. When these guys say "HD," they mean it. On a tablet or on a phone, Anomaly: Warzone Earth HD shines. (Now let's all just ignore my little mistake in saying the HD version is only, for tablets, shall we?)

Explosions are satisfying and, well, explosive. Firepower coming off of mechs from both sides looks impressive, and the environments are as beautiful as they are haunting. The destruction looks great. Simply put, Anomaly: Warzone Earth HD offers as much eye candy as it does great gameplay, and that's saying something.

Because we're talking tower offense here, the folks at 11 bit studios had to get a bit creative in how you pick your troops, send them on their way, and keep them from being obliterated whilst in a mission. The first (and perhaps most impressive) of these is Tactical View.

Tactical View is your first line of offense, and it's where you plan your route before you actually drop your units in and start fragging aliens left and right. It's a nice, bright blue, and has a real military operation feel to it, which I totally dig. You change your route by tapping the arrows on the map, and like magic, new routes are made (and displayed) right before your very eyes.

Hostiles are colored red, and Tactical View makes sure you can tell the difference between different enemies by keeping a true outline of their shape. If you've got enough cash on hand, you can also buy your own units from the Tactical View page.

Once you leave Tactical View (and your invasion starts), things heat up a bit. Your motley crew of diehards casually sashay into enemy territory, guns a'blazing. With a mere three of four units to start, how can you expect to survive the onslaught of guns firing at you? With power-ups, of course!

Things like repair, smokescreen, and even unit upgrade will all be revealed to you, and for the first two, using them is as simple as tapping their icon and picking a place on the map for them to be used. For the repair, make sure it's always a little bit ahead of where your units are going or else they'll drive right past it (a lesson learned the hard way for me), but otherwise, it's all incredibly intuitive.

You can also earn medals at the end of each successful mission, for both your ruthlessness and your efficiency. As far as I can guess, the former is for taking out as many enemies as possible and the latter is for accomplishing your mission objectives by taking the path of least resistance, so I don't think you can get a gold on both on a single pass-through. Still, it's something to consider, especially if you're an achievement hound.

For a game so great, it's not without one hugely distracting niggle in my mind. You have to hold down the double-speed button to keep it going! What's the deal with that? If you're holding, say, a 10-inch tablet (especially one with a little extra heft), things get awkward, thumbs get tired, and you'll start asking yourself "Why am I not playing this on a phone, where my tiny, woman-sized hands are comfortable?" But that's not fair, because your hands are totally average-sized.

Anyway, despite that one complaint, Anomaly: Warzone Earth HD is an absolutely stellar game with killer graphics, and awesome story, and gameplay that makes other tower-related games slink away in shame. It was part of the Humble Bundle for a reason, and even if you missed it there, you should definitely pick it up.

Anomaly: Warzone Earth HD can be had for $3.99 in the Android Market. Download links are after the break.

Joshua Munoz