Pirate Legends TD (out now, $0.99) by Super Hippo Studios Limited is a game that wants to be loved. It’s got everything you could ask for in a tower defense game: a charming art style, a goofy personality, inventive levels, loads of upgrades, and, of course, towers and defending. In fact, the only thing it’s missing is a few more original ideas.
That’s not to say it’s a bad game, however. What’s there is very fun, in the same way that Kingdom Rush is fun. In fact, the game shares a number of striking similarities with KR and it’s recent sequel, Frontiers, to the point where I almost thought Pirates was a nautically-themed clone when I first began playing. They both use scattered fixed-points for tower placement (in this case, buoys), the same tech tree, a branching upgrade system for each of four towers, a pair of powerful abilities on cool down timers, and quite a bit more. These things didn’t start with the Kingdom Rush series, of course, but Pirate Legends TD uses them not only in the same way, but they often look virtually identical on a visual level as well.
Okay, so the game saw some good ideas and copied them a bit. That’s not always a terrible thing, and luckily the game uses these mechanics and systems very well. The game is a joy to play. And in fairness, Super Hippo did innovate in at least one interesting area: Your base has the ability to fight back. You can use your finger to spin your pirate ship in any direction at any time and it will lob cannon balls at incoming creeps. While it feels a tad gimmicky, it does add one more subtle (but welcome) layer of strategy to the proceedings.
The area where this game truly stands out, however, is in its overall character. So much love and attention went into designing the cartoony visuals and animations that I let a few enemies sneak by on more than one occasion when I was getting lost in small details of the levels. For instance, in one level there is a man on a balcony in the background that sings when you tap him. In another, a zombie standing in a graveyard will water the ground when you tap her, sprouting a smily-faced sunflower (a sly nod to a certain other popular defense series, perhaps). It’s small things like these that make each of the game’s 12 levels really come to life. And that’s not even mentioning the towers themselves. (Mutant fish! Chicken bombers! Pet shark!)
All in all, Pirate Legends TD is a good, sometimes great game. It has everything you could want in a tower defense title, and a treasure trove of charm to keep you motivated through the difficult later levels. Unfortunately, a fun visual style and a spinny pirate ship don’t do quite enough to distinguish it from the hundreds of other tower defense games found in the App Store.
iFanzine Verdict: Pirate Legends TD is a perfectly fine tower defense game. It does most things right, and thankfully the lack of new ideas is balanced by a wonderfully captivating art style. (Seriously. There’s a dude with a pet shark. It’s rad.) Its original asking price of $3.99 may have been hard to swallow for some gamers who can find more original games for less, but at its current sale price of 99 cents it’s a no-brainer.