Whenever a successful game comes along, publishers immediately try to think of ways to capitalise and release a sequel. More often than not, developers try to evaluate the original and go back to fix any bugs or issues raised by gamers, improve on the original and expand on the gameplay while trying to deliver a new gaming experience. And then you get games that are simply designed to cash in on the success of the original by offering little more than a remake or rehash of their predecessor and hoping to get by on fan support and brand loyalty… and hence Fort Defence: Noth Menace was born.
A follow up to their earlier tower defense game in the Fort Defense series, North Menace continues the pirate themed adventures but this time moves the setting northwards (as the title suggests) and head off to a more wintery climate with each of the games stages based in arctic waters. The basic tower defense mechanics of the game itself remains the same with a range of artillery and spells at your disposal to prevent the incoming ships from reaching your fortress, all upgradeable, but it’s all familiar territory to anyone who has played the previous title.
A few new elements have been introduced to the game linking in with the arctic theme which manifest themselves later on in the game as you progress. As with the spells which are limited in their useage (needing to “recharge” after being unleashed, you now have several new bonus attacks and tools to unleash on your adversaries. The first of these is a sea creature that rises out of the water to attack any ships that stray into its path – useful for anything that may have slipped past your earlier defenses. The second – and these is vital on some of the faster levels – are icebergs. They can be placed anywhere on the ocean and effectively block oncoming ships for a brief period until they are destroyed. If you position them carefully enough, with sufficient artillery placements nearby it can make for a devastating trap to elminate all but the toughest of opposing forces.
They’re both a welcome addition to the game and it’s good to see that some thought has been put into making this a little different to the first in the series but other than that it’s really no different. It’s still the same standard tower defense fare and I couldn’t help but get the feeling throughout that I was just playing the same game as before, just additional levels.
This feeling extends to the visuals and sound. Apart from the snow-coated graphics, everything generally looks the same as the first game in the series. The game’s front end is identical, there is still no animation on the attacking boats or water and the same sound effects are present throughout… even the same music from the first game has been reused and it screams lazyness from start to finish.
Controls are just the same. Fort Defense: North Menace uses the same touch-only interface throughout as its predecessor and while I found this to be more than adequate for the menus themselves, in game this proved to be overly frustrating. Unlike the DS family, the Vita’s screen simply isn’t designed for accurate operations without the use of a stylus so there are frequent times when you try to select a weapon placement and either miss or even worse purchase the wrong weapon type or upgrade. Using spells is far worse as it’s all too easy to select the wrong spell or wrong target and for a game where precision and timing are a must it’s just not acceptable. This could have been overcome so easily if it were possible to zoom in on the action for more precise selection but again this hasn’t been implement leaving you feeling that the release was rushed with no thought to improving the game’s core engine.
I really wanted to hope that this would be a big improvement over the somewhat disappointing Fort Defense but to be frank it wasn’t. With the exception of a few different attack units and additions with the introduction of sea creatures and icebergs, the game didn’t feel or play any differently. If anything North Menace felt as if it should have been released as DLC for the original release rather than a stand-alone title as there’s really nothing here to distinguish itself as a brand new release. It is marginally better than the first in the series because of the addition of the new elements to the gameplay but unless you are desperately in need of more tower defense games to play on the Vita, I see no need for you to own both of them.
Is this worth getting? Barely, but it’s a seriously flawed game and certainly not one that should be at the top of anyone’s gaming wish list. It’s an improvement on the original, but not by a great deal but you’ll find yourself struggling with the game engine more than the challenge of the game itself.
At A Glance
- Title: Fort Defense: North Menace
- Publisher: 8 Floor Games
- System: PS Vita
- Format: PSN Download
- Cross Buy: No
- Cross Play: No
- Online Multiplayer: No
- PlayStation TV Compatible: Yes
- Memory Card Space Needed: 123Mb