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Review: Defenders of the Mystic Garden

Posted by on April 19th, 2012 | 2 Comments | Tags:

A great tower defense game can really draw someone in and get them playing over and over again, trying to come up with great strategies to perfect all the levels. Unfortunately Defenders of the Mystic Garden is not one of those great tower defense games and while it tries to do something fairly unique in the genre the implementation is just not done well.

In Defenders you take control of lawn gnomes trying to protect your strawberries from a variety of different thieving enemies. In you gnome arsenal you have 4 different upgradeable units each with different powers and ranges: the warrior who has high physical damage but low range, the ranger who has long range and can attack flying enemies, the fire mage who has low attack power but can attack multiple enemies at once, and the ice mage whose attacks slow enemies. While you place these unites around the map to defeat the attackers like we are all used to doing, this game has changed things up a little. You only have a max amount of units you can use for each level and instead of them being fixed to where you have first placed them, you can freely move them around the map and even get them to patrol a certain area. What this should turn out to be is you planning out your level strategies by having to manage restricted resources and moving them to cover different parts of the map where needed. Instead I found that I was just playing the game like a regular tower defense game with restricted resources since trying to base any strategy around moving and patrolling units was an exercise in futility and constantly made me screw up more.

This stems from a few different problems. Firstly the game prevents you from placing units too closely to each other, which wouldn’t be a problem except that it doesn’t outright inform you how much space you need between units, you just have to keep moving your cursor until it stops turning red. This invisible barrier is in place at all times and even oddly when trying to move your unit slightly from where it is placed. This means to move a unit a little bit over you actually have to move it further away from where you need it and then move it back. The other problem is the speed of your cursor. There is only one speed and while it is fairly quick when you first start out a level, the more units and enemies that are on the screen seems to slow it down to the point that enemies move faster than the cursor. So by the time you realize and go through the action of moving a unit most of the time it is too late. These are really bad oversights and in a game where speedy moves are essential it can be detrimental to the playing experience (and my frustration levels).

Over the course of the 12 different levels you will face a variety of different enemies ranging from the ordinary pests of someone’s yard (like ants and gophers) to the crazy (like penguins and lava spirits). Some of these enemies also have special statistics like flying or resistance to physical attacks which are a nice addition, but their HP and amount of strawberries they take is different for each level. Which means the same strategy for one wave of a certain enemy won’t necessarily work the next time you face them so you will always need to be prepared to switch up your strategy.

Since Mini’s do not support trophies I was happy to see that the developer included an in game trophy system called Challenges. While none of these are exceptional difficult to complete it’s nice to have something extra to strive for instead of just finishing each level. I was also surprised when I noticed that the game had voice in it. Whenever you click on a unit they spout a one liner, which can be amusing the first time you hear them but it can get annoying after a while. One odd occurrence with the voices though is that the ice mage is supposed to be an older gnome, but about half the time instead sounds like 20 year old. Thankfully you can turn these off in the options if you wish to.

While I liked the fact that Twisted Dragon tried something different with movement and patrolling, they were just not implemented well and the game just felt like a sub-par tower defense game. While the inclusion of the challenges is nice the game is really missing the draw to keep you coming back for more. This could have been alleviated slightly by including something as basic as a leaderboard for each level or even a way to tell if you have completed a stage perfectly or not. What it really comes down to is that there are better tower defense games available for the Mini’s platform that deserve your attention more.

A copy of this game was obtained through PS+ for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation Portable version of the game.

General Info

  • The implementation of moving and patrolling units
  • Flat looking graphics of everything besides the gnomes
  • Voice work
  • Slow cursor movement
  • Zoomed in camera

  • smokenpenguin

    i couldn’t disagree with you more. the movement of units is exactly what makes this game so awesome. having played TD games for far too many years, having this feature turns things around and suddenly makes it infinitely re-playable, as i search for a better way to best the strawberry stealing ants. your run of the mill TD, once you beat it once, you may as well quit, since it’s not going to change. with DotMG, guess what, that penguin you just killed is back in a new level, but now he’s more powerful. it’s an awesome twist to a genre that felt run out of ideas, making it feel fresh and new again. any TD that follows suit should piggy back on the inevitable success of DotMG and implement the changes they brought to the table.

    • Andrew

      I agree with the ability to move units, in theory, would add a lot to a tower defense game to shake things up a bit and I really hope other developers implement it in TD games in the future. I just found that in this game I didn’t enjoy the implementation and in my opinion the experience as a whole could of used a lot of polish.