Without wishing to get too philosophical, there's perhaps no greater example of the futility of war than the tower defence genre.
Where else in the gaming world do you have wave upon wave of enemy troops blindingly marching into the savagest of no man's lands, seemingly oblivious to the impending doom they've been ordered towards?
Not unlike the conflicts around the world, there's no shortage of tower defence games. One of the prettiest to date has been Fieldrunners, which shot to prominence on the iPhone and following a couple of updates has risen through the ranks to be rightfully regarded as one of the finer examples of the genre.
It doesn't do anything revolutionary - you still use money to buy towers designed to mow down the opposition before they reach the exit point through the use of bullets, rockets, lightning, fire and bombs, while also investing in towers specifically designed to slow their progress down (the slower they are, the more damage you can inflict).
As the enemies fall, your cash rises and this is used to purchase further towers (you want to create the longest route through the map) or upgrade them into more powerful versions of themselves.
So far, so traditional tower defence, which is far from a criticism. When balanced as correctly as Subatomic Studios’s effort, the resulting experience can be worryingly infectious. And now PSP has caught the Fieldrunners bug, courtesy of the Minis range.
Brilliantly, PSP Fieldrunners retains all of the core elements of the original: the same mix of soldier-, ground- and air-based enemies; an identical scoring, damage and difficulty system; and a similar structure of unlocking later maps and play modes through success in your current campaign (see PG Tips).
Side-by-side, the PSP version runs a fraction faster (although slowdown can still be seen when things get hectic in later waves) but even that isn't particularly noticeable.
Where there are differences, they're not insignificant. Okay, glance and you'll miss the detail in the reworked visuals (although zoom in to the closest setting - by using the analogue nub - and you'll push the resolution too far, resulting in too ‘soft’ an image), and you'll have to survive to the 75th wave of any map in order to unlock the new fast-forward option (unleashed by pressing Triangle) but you'd have to be blind not to spot the two additional maps.
The iPhone version of Fieldrunners has three - Grasslands, Crossroads and Drylands - but here Skyway and Frostbite are introduced, their substantially different designs bringing with them fresh tactical options along with a couple of new weapons (the laser is a notable example).
Of course, perhaps the biggest change is the controls. The transition has been well handled, with the functions mapping onto the PSP's keys in a logical manner and there's been an elegant solution in the dual use of the D-pad to handle both the placement of units and their upgrading and selling (by pressing right or left, respectively) once they’re selected.
It'll take a little time before you stop accidentally selling your tower (and even when second nature, accidents can still happen) but overall the resulting experience feels very much at home. So much so, in fact, that Fieldrunners on PSP ends up being preferable to its touchscreen-based counterpart on iPhone.
And when a game is this addictive, that’s saying a lot.
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