Anomaly: Warzone Earth isn't just a clever game concept, it's a well-executed one.

This unique twist on tower defence promises intense tactical gameplay, a superb presentation, and just the right amount of content to ensure satisfaction. It's a rare innovator in a genre packed with wannabes and copycats, aiming to deliver original, in-depth gameplay to rival the best in its class.

With a few months between now and its early 2011 release, this highly promising game is destined to only get better as independent developer 11-bit Studios lavishes it with polish.

Desert storm

The game centers on a gargantuan alien structure that crashes into the city of Baghdad in the year 2018. A force field encases the vessel, preventing anything from infiltrating it. Naturally, it's your objective to break through the shield and uncover what's inside.

You accomplish this by commanding a line of military forces along predetermined paths lined with extraterrestrial defensive turrets.

In this way, Anomaly plays like a reverse tower defence game: instead of placing towers to guard against encroaching waves of enemies, you're pushing through a line of defences while enemies try to stop you.

It's important to note that you control a single line of up to six units, rather than multiple waves. Units are purchased using command points and you're given the liberty to select which units participate in battle.

The tank-like Crawler, for example, is a costly offensive unit, whereas the Shield offers good defence at an affordable price.

Tactical considerations

Learning how to effectively deploy each type of unit is critical to success. Attempting to blitz your way through a map with a line of Crawlers isn't a strategy for success - on the contrary, carefully selecting and arranging units is key.

Shields may not have much attack power, but can absorb incoming attacks when positioned at the front of the line, clearing the way for Crawlers to attack.

Equally important is which pathways you navigate en route to the stage goal. At the beginning of each level you're presented with an overheard tactical map outlining the possible avenues of attack, enemy defence, and end goal.

Tapping waypoints enables you to adjust the route planned for your line of units. Depending on your chosen path, you can evade tough enemies, go after enhancing resources, or rush a line of enemy turrets.

In this way, Anomaly provides two layers of tactical consideration: foremost is the conflict between your units and the enemy, on top of which route you decide to take.

Methods and modes

Special power-ups add yet another layer. Smoke screen, decoy, and heal abilities help turn the tide of battle to your favour.

Rather than skimping on power-ups, Anomaly encourages frequent use. The stiff difficulty and overwhelming might of alien defences forces you to constantly lay out heal areas and smoke screens to protect your units.

All of these tactical layers come together in a story-driven 14-mission campaign, to be accompanied by two maps in a high-scoring Endless mode. Game Center integration is being considered, which would is advisable given the leaderboard-ready Endless mode.

The superb presentation closes a convincing case for Anomaly. A clean yet attractive interface coupled with dazzling graphics certainly grab your attention.

But it's the uniquely challenging gameplay that's going to draw you in when Anomaly: Warzone Earth is released for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad in early 2011.

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