Beware Planet Earth

Allow me to posit a theory: Tim Burton has access to time travel. You see, after doing his two Batman movies, he was done with the franchise. That said, he still has some reverence for it. So, when he traveled into the future, he was mortified to learn that Ben Affleck would be playing The Dark Knight in the Superman Vs. Batman flick. So mortified that he went back in time and directed Mars Attacks!; the aliens doing nothing but complaining of this fact through the entire movie. (Affleck! Batman! Bahbahbeh AFFLECK!) This hypothesis falls apart once one takes into account the existence of Batman Forever and Batman & Robin. Yes, my friends, you have just read a preemptive digression. Take that as you will.

The point I am trying to make, though, is when playing Lightmare Studio’s Beware Planet Earth, my mind tended to wander a bit. It’s not that there is no merit to be found here, but the way this tower defense game is set up leaves some time for the player to become disengaged. That’s great for me, as the bulk of this review was able to be written in my head while playing, meaning I don’t need to take the time to organize these random strands of ideas into coherent thoughts. All that is left to me is the laborious task of commanding these sausage links I call fingers to type them out. And for my long suffering wife to edit them.

Produce, my pork filled appendages! Produce!
Produce, my pork filled appendages! Produce!

Where Beware Planet Earth gets points with me is in the style of the enemy design. Obviously owing much to the previously mentioned Mars Attacks! and the trading cards on which it was based, the aliens here have lots of personality painted on the screen in broad strokes. The base design is a blatant take on this design, with their bulbous, protruding brains, fishbowl helmets, and wide eyes. From there, each enemy type is given different costumes and height as needed. There are French maid aliens that vacuum up land mines, clown Martians that irritate your defense by being obnoxious, scientists that create force fields, and plenty more.

The design of the defenses, though, feels more in line with a “Fisher-Price My First Tower Defense” feel. The idea of this game is that it takes place on a farm. The farm’s owner is trapped in an outhouse (or is he?) and he is leaving the farm’s defense to the player. With this theme, all of the defenses try to fit in with the theme, and fail. Other than the currency generators, the first two items are a projectile shooting moonshine still, and a freezer that slows enemies. Later in the game, you do get other items like a flame spewing gasoline pump, landmines, and bombs. These all have a rather precocious look to them, feeling large and plastic, with expressive faces. It’s all very precious.

Extra props for the Steam exclusive Valve based Martians.
Extra props for the Steam exclusive Valve based Martians.

Going with the “My First Tower Defense” look comes the very simple feel of the game. I am not what one would describe as a “tower defense connoisseur,” (I haven’t even played Plants vs. Zombies) but this all felt very basic to me. Take currency and set up your first defenses. Earn more currency and set up more defenses as an ever increasing line of enemies comes down the lane. The difference here is that everything you can build is on a cool down timer. So, it quickly becomes a game of wait for currency to spawn in the currency generator, place a defensive item, and wait. Occasionally, you will need to pull out a zapper to mitigate an alien shield or disguise, but that’s about it. Frankly, I have a hard time understanding all of this violence. The Martians are just looking for cows. If they get to the end of your gauntlet, they will simply pick up a cow and have to make their way back through the same gauntlet. Surely, in the name of intergalactic peace, humanity can find a few steak beasts to donate to the aliens. Maybe in exchange for some technology?

The action does become more frantic in later levels, at least. The game starts in the spring season and ends in winter. Fall is when things start to become more interesting, as the additional paths the Martians can use become more intricate and the mixture and volume of enemies become more challenging. To be fair to the game, I played through on normal. There is a veteran mode, as well, something that I was reminded of at every loading screen. The thing is that the basics of the game, while solid, felt derivative. While I am certain the veteran would be more challenging, unless the gameplay elements are drastically changed, it wouldn’t be any more fun. Also, the world would have been deprived of my “Time Traveling Tim” theory. Where is the joy in that?



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