by Richard Edwards
reviewed on PC
There are a few more ways to interact with the action, my favourite being the cowbell. You have a few items that you can use to do different things – ideal for when you're waiting for the next tower you want to build. The cowbell allows you to ring a bell anywhere on the map and if any recently nabbed cattle are near enough to hear it, they go scurrying back to the pasture faster. The sight of a cow desperately trying to stay one step ahead of an alien ninja while a bell rings constantly next to it is something very few games can provide.
The most important item, though, is the ray gun. Early on in the game you salvage some alien technology that allows you use their technology against them. Once selected, this gun can shoot off enemy disguises, deal damage to aliens, pop force fields and more. Overcharging turrets to make them deal more damage is one of its more useful functions. Eventually though, the gun will break and it will need to spend time being repaired. You can use it sparingly to make sure this doesn't happen – but both approaches result in you not using the gun for a while.
I had a blast with Beware Planet Earth!. I blitzed through the first set of levels without a hitch and came back for more. But despite its quirky visuals and fun gameplay, the title is not without flaws, however minute.
The first problem is there is no fast forward button. Most tower defenses allow you to speed up the action, or send in the next wave early. It's just to offset the fact that, a lot of the time, you're going to be watching turrets shoot the enemies for you. Once your turrets are in place the game becomes very passive. Apart from zapping away the odd disguise or placing land mines there's not a lot to do. It would be nice to have a button that made the slower sections of game go a bit faster – especially as you can be sitting there for a few minutes just waiting for the round to end, shooting the occasional alien and collecting currency you don't need any more.
The second problem I had with it is the music. It's very “60s space age,” with lots of warbling FX. It sets the tone for the game fantastically at first but, after the first few rounds, once the novelty wears off, it just begins to gnaw at your sense, getting increasingly irritating eith every round. Fortunately, the game has a mute button and I have an extensive library of music I do like, so this wasn't too much of a problem.
My final gripe with this game is the occasional lack of polish. At one point a very large enemy gets sent against you – it's meant to be a climactic moment as you use every trick at your disposal to stop it. That means overcharging the turrets you've already built. Unfortunately, at that point in the game, the range on them isn't great – one or two squares, at most and the size of the boss means that almost every turret you need to charge is obscured. Your gun prioritizes the boss and you end up doing a lot less damage. This wouldn't be so bad if the boss wasn't able to grab every one of your cows at once, meaning that if you fail here you would have to play the entire wave again. It might be a lesson in forward planning – if you charge the turrets a couple of squares ahead the boss still takes a lot of damage – but somehow I doubt it.
If you can look past this though, Beware Planet Earth! is a solid, family-friendly tower defense game. It might not set any gaming records, or turn out to be a sleeper hit, but it will certainly help you pass a few lunch breaks.
Challenge mode adds to the time you'll spend on this game...
... but not an awful lot