It’s 2136 and thanks to HEROCORP, a fictional company that has invented the ability to hop dimensions, Earth’s private military forces can preemptively save the world from destruction. This sounds like solving a problem that doesn’t exist, however the money’s too good and as such squads of three are sent through each rift with a budget and a bunch of towers to wreak havoc on unsuspecting enemy forces.
Described by the developers, SMG Studios, as ‘Spaceballs meets Starship Troopers’, Over The Top Tower Defense (OTTTD) doesn’t disappoint in living up to those comparisons. In fact, the carnage left behind after each battle is very reminiscent of the human and bug devastation set out in Paul Verhoeven’s cult classic. The irreverent humour each of the seven heroes that you unlock, pokes fun at classic movie tropes and does its best to evoke the stereotypical action hero. It can be very cheesy at times but it fits the overall shtick OTTTD is aiming for.
OTTTD started out as a mobile and PC game so it’s odd that, with the move to the Nintendo Switch, touch controls aren’t even an option. Overall the controls are not too difficult to get used to but when you’re busily trying to set down more towers whilst simultaneously trying to move your heroes around and use their abilities, the lack of touch controls is really telling. It seems strange given how much OTTTD would benefit from touch controls that they weren’t added. Tower defense games, especially as the levels and difficulty ramps up, require quickness of thought and action. Being able to tap as opposed to frantically cycling through things using shoulder buttons would be almost untouchable here and would ease some of frustration found in the later levels. Once you do get the hang of whizzing around your towers and heroes via the shoulder buttons things aren’t too bad and work well if you’re playing on the big screen.
Visually OTTTD is a treat with everything leaning on the side of cartoony which with all with all the guts and gore on screen is a weird visual delight. The colours really pop on the Switch’s diminutive screen and whilst it can sometimes be difficult to know what’s alive and what’s dead the action is really satisfying to watch. Combined with the funny dialogue and a rather funky soundtrack OTTTD is a delight to play in the short bursts and commutes that the Switch seems like it was built for.
That’s not to say OTTTD can’t be played in long stints and adding a skill tree and some lite RPG elements to the heroes differentiate it from the usual tower defense fair. You can randomise each character's name and then, as you earn XP and level up, each of them earn skill points that can then be used to upgrade them. In addition, you also earn money which can be used to purchase upgraded weapons and armour. Most of the tower defense games I’ve ever played usually end with my towers being too overpowered and deployed in numbers that just seemed rather silly. Things were still fun but it removed too much of the strategy element that I enjoy from these types of games.
In OTTTD, however, no matter how much I upgraded my heroes, and the towers I deployed, things never got to the point where I didn’t need to concentrate on what I was doing. Some other tower defense games out there would let you get to a point where you could buy just one or two types of tower and safely complete a level. OTTTD varies enemies and their type rather well with each tower type being divided into the type of damage it deals and therefore crucial in dispatching enemies quickly. By compiling the right team of heroes and a frugal yet efficient approach to your towers, gaining the maximum three stars for a level can be yours.
However, OTTTD relies heavily on you remembering everything. From the types of tower and the damage type they deal to their limitations, such as being only able to target airborne enemies. If you forget then you can find yourself wasting precious resources. You can view the in-game encyclopedia in between levels but you have no access to it during battles. For us this is a minor inconvenience but it would help players unfamiliar with the genre through the main campaign to have access to the encyclopedia mid-battle.
OTTTD is a very competent tower defense game and the addition of the RPG elements in the form of character skill trees add an extra layer of strategy to an already well thought out game. There are a few niggles here and there and the lack of any touch controls, especially considering the platform, is a shame. However, tower defense games are a perfect pick-up and play style of game and it’s great to have such a shining example of the genre available for the Nintendo Switch.