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Spice Invaders

For:   Also on: iPhoneiPad
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Look at your touchscreen

Product: Spice Invaders | Developer: On5 | Publisher: Chillingo | Format: iPhone | Genre: Strategy, Tower defence | Players: 1-8 | File size: 77.9MB | Version: Europe | App version: 1.02
Spice Invaders iPhone, thumbnail 1
Spice Invaders is about a civilisation in complete thrall to a precious resource, and it's prepared to wage war to obtain more of it. Sounds suspiciously like a parable, doesn’t it?

But breathe easy. The civilisation in question isn’t human - it’s an invading armada of Space Pirates. Human beings are the innocent party for once, because it’s their planet that’s being plundered.

Try to imagine Frank Herbert’s Dune being retold by the Pixar animation wizards and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what Spice Invaders looks and sounds like. It’s dangerous, but cute. But dangerous.

Then back to me

Playing as a new recruit in this invading armada, you work your way through a lengthy battle campaign, defending outposts at key strategic locations all over Earth. Your fight takes you from continent to continent, quelling the rebellious Earthlings wherever they rear their stupid pink faces.

It's a tower defence game, and it conforms to the standard tropes of the genre. Each level is a hexagonal grid, where you place towers to protect your outpost against assault from a stream of hostiles. These towers can be upgraded, and you can choose from several varieties depending on the situation.

The levels are skilfully designed, and each terrain poses its own set of challenges. One level might have multiple entry points for the enemy, while another might have a field of bamboo surrounding your outpost. You have to juggle your limited deployment credits with the natural advantages of the landscape to repel the attacks.

But where Spice Invaders really breaks new ground is the addition of several different modes onto each level. Once you’ve completed the game in Normal mode, there are another five modes to unlock, including Sudden Death and Multiplayer modes – both co-op and competitive.

Overlaying all those different experiences onto a single canvas has worked incredibly well.

Look at your touchscreen again, then back to me

Spice Invaders is a freemium game. The standard means of unlocking features is to trade in Spice, but if you don't have the patience for that you can spend real money. This includes buying new towers, upgrading your personal abilities as an armchair general, and also kitting out your avatar in clothing more becoming of his station.

Unfortunately, the game is stacked against you if you don't want to pay. Deactivating interstitial adverts is just the start of it. To be able to afford to unlock more powerful towers, or to progress in the single-player campaign, you face a choice between an interminable grind or reaching into your pocket.

Despite these increasingly familiar and fun-hampering issues, Spice Invaders is a fantastic game to play. It looks the business, has a premise that’s darkly ironic, and it’s glowing proof that the genre still has room to grow.
Spice Invaders
Reviewer photo
Bulent Yusuf | 2 February 2012
A charming and audacious re-imagining of the tower defence genre. But the pitching for in-app purchases is too obtrusive to be fair
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