Review: Animal Force
An interesting take on the tower defense genre that ultimately doesn't quite meet expectations.
Usually, when the aliens come to invade in fiction, its a scrappy group of humans who need to band together to save the day. Not so in Animal Force. Humans are helpless to prevent the aliens from kidnapping them all over the place, and its up to the efforts of Earth’s animals to stop them in a curious take on the tower defence idea.
The setting for Animal Force is a bright, cartoonish world with rolling farmland and busy cities portrayed in a cute, but clean-looking and quite appealing art style. It is to this world that aliens descend, intent on kidnapping humans for nefarious purposes, and your band of animals to stop them.
In effect, this makes the human populace the ‘tower’ you need to defend, instead of protecting a fixed location. This creates a more dynamic feel, which works quite well in VR. Each animal has its own particular powers, strengths and weaknesses, and the player needs to position the animal units in the correct places to protect the hapless humans.
The action takes place across various sections, where aliens will appear and head on a pre-determined path to grab a human and bring them back to the mothership. If ten humans are kidnapped, then it is game over. Some levels will have a boss appear to change things up a bit.
Controls are mostly handled with a single PlayStation Move controller. The various animal units can be picked up and positioned, and then re-positioned if you realise you need them elsewhere. This works very well, and saves you from feeling like the game is playing itself.
The difficulty curve ramps up fairly quickly. The first few missions are almost laughably simple, but the difficulty quickly ramps up until you are frantically diving around trying to get your units in the right place. At least until you realise that some of the units are basically useless and focus on putting the really useful units in the right place.
One particular mechanic of note is the ‘black hole’. From approximately world three onwards, a ‘black hole’ will show up, supposedly randomly. These spawn in extremely quickly, and can swallow your units whole with nary a warning, so you don’t really have time to move them out of the way. Curiously, despite supposedly appearing randomly, it only seems to appear when things were going very well for the player. As a result, it feels controller-snappingly unfair.
The music is mostly bland and forgettable. It’s fine, and not bad it just fades listlessly into the background. The sound effects are also fine, and fit well, but can be a little repetitive.
While Animal Force makes a valiant effort to bring some changes to the tower defence genre, and take advantage of VR, and it only manages to clear the ‘its okay’ bar. It has some nice touches, and an appealing art style, but it also has very linear, repetitive gameplay, a steep difficulty curve and some very bizarre gameplay decisions that prevent it from being as good as it could have been.