Welcome to flipping the script, with your host Anomaly Korea. Created by developer 11Bit Studios, Anomaly Korea is the sequel to 2011’s award-winning Anomaly: Battlefield Earth. Instead of Tokyo or Baghdad, Anomaly Korea takes the Commander and his intrepid forces into the Korean peninsula, now beset by deadly robotic aliens with a penchant for tower defense.
Available on the Apple Store, at Amazon, or on GooglePlay, Anomaly Korea, like its predecessor, takes a world-renowned concept and turns it on its head.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be the creeps forced down that gauntlet of death?
This is where Anomaly Korea steps in, tasking you with navigating a convoy of futuristic military vehicles through the robot-battered streets of Korea. You start off with a sort of overhead map of the current area, where you have to choose a “path” through the lethal maze. It begins as a strategy game, because the shortest, least dangerous path is not always the best way to go. Sometimes by going out of the way, you can pass by resources your convoy can collect, which helps you buy more units or upgrade the ones you already have.
Once you’ve decided on your path (which can be changed at any time), you pick your loadout of units. Some missions do this for you, while others leave the choice to you. You then spend a finite amount of resources to load up, deciding between fragile glass cannons with long range, or tough battle-hardened super tanks with special kill-based attacks, or a dozen other units in between. As the game progresses you’re introduced to more varied units, including one that shields units on either side of it. It’s a blast to experiment with different mixes of units, trying to fine-tune the perfect squad for the perfect map.
As you destroy towers, not only are you given new resources to buy and upgrade your units mid-level, but you are also air-dropped power-ups by your friendly Korean allies. These power ups come in a variety of flavors, and appear on your screen as handy icons with a count of how many are left. To engage your power ups, you tap the icons and throw them down on the map, where appear as circles of various sizes. Some abilities are for you, laying out a circle that boosts the firepower and range of any unit driving through it, or areas that repair your damaged vehicles. Other abilities screw your potential robot overlords, like smoke screens that blind them or decoys that draw their fire for a short amount of time.
The enemy towers are equally varied; some damage you with rapid fire blasts, and others blast uni-beam lasers that demolish heavy units. There’s even a particularly insidious tower that actually devours any of your power-ups that you lay nearby, and uses those power ups to heal enemy towers.
The strategy in the game is delightful and varied, keeping you constantly on your toes. Dropping power ups, changing vehicle order, and swapping your path to avoid orbital bombardment are all exciting and fun, and you’re rarely short of something to do when the game gets going.
The levels do a great job of not being repetitive as well, always introducing a new enemy, a new unit, or a new objective. There’s even a rather tricky level early on that takes your convoy through a series of factories, the bummer being that once “inside” the factory, your allies can no longer drop power-ups. This will often force you to change your path midstream, so you can go outside, pick up more airdrops, and then go back inside to cause more ruckus.
Anomaly Korea has shockingly good graphics for a mobile game, and though the isometric view is shot from far off, everything is crisp and reads well on a tiny screen. The explosions and particle effects are eyepopping, and the units themselves are particular well-designed and easy to distinguish, which comes in really handy when you’re wondering if it’s your APC or your Tank out front.
The enemy robot designs are suitably sinister and technolicious, looking like something out of Michael Bay’s fevered daydreams.
The textures are attractive and well-made, providing a moody look at a futuristic warzone.
You are constantly bombarded by orders and dialogue from your helpful Korean allies, and while none of it is stunning, the acting does a fine job. The combat sounds, including Earth-shattering lasers, chattering machine gun fire, and bombastic explosions, are all serviceable, and do well to immerse you into the experience.
The music in particular is interesting, and does a surprisingly good job at conveying what futuristic Korean danger rock might sound like. It’s got electric guitars mixed with wind chimes and warbling flute, and it’s all pretty effective at representing the soundtrack of future-Asia.
Anomaly Korea runs $2.99, both on the Apple store and for your Android devices. To be honest, it’s a complete steal. I’d pay five to ten dollars for the game, honestly, with my only regret on that score being the rather short duration of the game itself. It wouldn’t be difficult to finish the whole thing in one sitting, if you’re particularly committed to saving Korea, or just really hate robots.
Overall, Anomaly Korea is easily the best mobile game I’ve played on any phone, ever. I realize that’s a bold statement, but it’s also true. It has all the addictive qualities of the best tower defense games, but it manages to completely flip the genre on its head by pointing out that the underdogs are the guys in the maze, and who doesn’t root for the underdogs?
Anomaly has that perfect pick-up-and-play quality, without being so simple that you instantly get tired of it. Even on the lowest difficulty setting, Anomaly Korea requires some fast thinking. So even while there aren’t that many levels, replaying them on increasingly harder difficulties is actually a worthy challenge.
A copy of the game was provided for the purpose of this review.