Oh, thank god. After getting angry at myself for the Kerflux review, and angry at the developers when it came to Pandora’s Books, it’s nice to see something that I can be a bit more positive about, even if that something lasted less time than the average sneeze. I guess Defend Your Turf is more of a demo in its current form, though I’m not sure I could wholeheartedly recommend a full purchase on the sheer basis of value for money. I got through everything the free part had to offer in twenty minutes, and if the locked-off level symbols are any indication, that was about a third of everything the creators have assembled in total.
The idea of Defend Your Turf is that there are a bunch of guys in FedEx uniforms beetling around a dirty alleyway, and because Batman’s parents were already shot last week they’re short of stuff to do. Thus they have decided to kill everybody who’s wearing a differently coloured hat, using their bare fists if need be. At least, that’s my theory of what’s going on. I don’t know why iPhone games seem so allergic to the most basic principles of narrative and story, because even an introductory passage blurting out “these guys suck so kill them, mmkay” is more motivation than what we’re given here.
But this time around the name of the game is character management and strategy. You can send individual goons across the battlefield to break your foe’s teeth by themselves, or select all your Pop Vinyl toys in one swipe and let them wobble en masse at the enemy, preferably with a bin over their head.
No, really. One of the few features that I could access in Defend Your Turf was the ability to have my Red Shirt minions fall into trash cans like Oscar The Grouch was drunk off his ass. Then they can totter around with a bit of extra health, and they also do extra damage if you can find one of those weirdly common sections of lead pipe that nobody thought to clean up.
So there’s stuff that works here. For all my joking about the odd visuals, they do look vaguely endearing and effort has been made to make the whole thing seem like part of a larger world, with cars driving in and the shadows of aircraft moving over the ground. I’m not sure this graphical style exactly suits the tone of the gameplay, as gangs violently beat each other into the cobblestones, but credit where credit’s due – it does look rather nice.
Unfortunately, no credit is due when it comes to the character A.I., which could be intellectually embarrassed by a boiled egg. I’ve seen algae smarter than these goons, and more maneuverable to boot. Here’s some unintended comedy for all of you – try sending three guys to attack one enemy, because you get to watch an impromptu little dance as they all circle around each other, trying to work out how to position themselves for the upcoming fight. More often than not I’d see two of my henchmen attacking some heavy with obvious room for a third guy to help out, and yet the extra warehouse worker I’d shoved into the fray would just be shuffling in loops around the whole group, as though he was a bit socially awkward and didn’t feel brave enough to intrude without being asked.
Defend Your Turf is ultimately a mixed bag, with the demo being too short to effectively hook the player into wanting more, and the regular advertisements being notably obnoxious in a game that’s already restricting the full experience until somebody pays it to stop. It is entirely possible that the inaccessible mechanics could build it into something very strong, but I wouldn’t know, and I’m just not quite enthused enough to find out. Give it a go and see for yourself – maybe you’ll have a different experience – but bear in mind that what you do get to play, brief as it may seem, is actually a lot more of the full title than it should be.