Metal Slug Defense adds dose of strategy to popular run-and-gunner

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I think it’s safe to say that no one was clamoring for a Metal Slug tower defense game. Don’t get me wrong: I love Metal Slug and have since the Neo Geo days. But despite the number of entries in the series now being firmly in the double digits, I don’t think anyone was calling for a shake-up of the formula. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Metal Gear Defense by SNK Playmore
Category: iOS Games
Works With: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch
Price: Free w/ in-app purchases

With Metal Slug Defense, developers SNK Playmore have indeed “fixed it.” In some ways, this is no surprise. We live in an age where game franchises are constantly expanding into new genres: where Angry Birds aren’t content to simply be aggrieved avians in their original incarnation, but must also spread their wings into genres like kart racing and turn-based RPGs. But what’s more surprising about Metal Slug Defense is that, by changing the concept of the game, SNK haven’t “broke it” at all.

In fact, they’ve made something of a gem.

The Metal Slug of the title makes an appearance as a super weapon.

The Metal Slug of the title makes an appearance as a super weapon.

For those unfamiliar with the tower defense genre, in Metal Slug Defense you recruit soldiers and built structures in a one-lane defense layout — then proceeding to strategically obliterate your opponent’s base before they can do the same to you. Once your enemy is vanquished, you move onto the next stage, collecting some extra points before you do, which let you upgrade your troops and defenses. From there it’s just a matter of rinse and repeat, with the missions getting steadily tougher along the way.

Unlike the Metal Slug games you know and love, in this game you play the role of general instead of grunt.

Unlike the Metal Slug games you know and love, you don’t have direct control over your troops in this game. Instead you plan the overarching strategy — playing the role of general versus that of grunt.

However, if the game replaces the gleeful run-gun destruction of the rest of the Metal Slug series, it does retain the same spirit: with the superb cartoony pixel art, wacky enemies, bombastic music, and familiar characters and “Mission Start” sound effects all carrying over. Even the Metal Slug of the title (a tank called the SV-001) makes an appearance as a super weapon able to mow over your enemy’s defenses. In addition, there is a multiplayer mode that is a whole lot of fun — although occasionally (in my gameplaying experience) haunted by opponents who would rather end a game than lose.

If there is a downside to Metal Slug Defense (and by now you should know this one as well as Apple’s standard “[we buy] smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans” refrain) it is the familiar curse of in-app purchases. Yes, Metal Slug Defense is a freemium title. Before you jump to conclusions, though, I’m happy to report that the game doesn’t rub them in your face. They’re there if you want to take advantage of them, but not in such a way that it makes the game unplayable otherwise. If IAPs are going to exist — and developers want to build long-term relationships with players — this is an example of how to do it.

Metal Slug Defense adds dose of strategy to popular run-and-gunner

In all, Metal Slug Defense is a fun novelty. Would I want the whole franchise to move in this more strategic direction? No. Do I think that fans of the series will enjoy playing it — even if they’re suspicious of the switch in genres? Absolutely.

And, hey, give SNK credit for trying (and pulling off) something a bit different.

Screen_Shot_2014-05-04_at_17Game Name: Metal Slug Defense
The Good: Takes a lot of what you love about the Metal Slug series and adds a strategy element.
The Bad: If you’re looking for the usual run-and-gun Metal Slug experience, you might be disappointed.
The Verdict: A fun experiment which expands the Metal Slug universe. Recommended.
Buy from: App Store

Cult of Mac rating: 4/5

About the author

Luke DormehlLuke Dormehl is a UK-based journalist and author, with a background working in documentary film for Channel 4 and the BBC. He is the author of The Formula: How Algorithms Solve All Our Problems, And Create More and The Apple Revolution, both published by Penguin/Random House. His tech writing has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, Techmeme, and other publications. He'd like you a lot if you followed him on Twitter.

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