Fieldrunners (PlayStation Minis) Review—First in the Field

This review originally appeared on back on October 1, 2009.

Fieldrunners for a lot of people needs no introduction. It won Top 10 Game at PAX 2009 and was also listed in Times Top 10 Video Games list. Put simply, Fieldrunners is one of the best games on the iPhone.

For its debut on the PSP in the Minis program, Fieldrunners received new maps, enemies, towers and visuals. So yes, as good as it was, it just got better. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the iPhone version lets just say it is the  most polished, free roam, tower defense game on the platform.

Fieldrunners is the first PlayStation Mini that was reviewed in

If the term “tower defense” is unfamiliar to you, then god help you, not for your ignorance, but for the countless hours you are about to waste on the genre. If you have even the slightest bit of interest in strategy, not to mention flexing your mental powers against a wave after wave of enemy assaults, then tower defense will find a little place in your heart, as it has mine.

The basic premise of the game is that waves of enemies march single file across the map in an attempt to reach a common goal. Your destruction. Your job is to set up defenses, in the form of automated gun turrets (towers) and then watch your enemies get mowed down.

Every enemy killed earns you money. That money is used to buy and upgrade towers. Should the enemies reach their goal you lose a life. If you run out of lives the game ends.

It’s a very simple concept that yields very deep strategy. Unlike most towers defense games the enemies in Fieldrunners don’t have a set path. For each map they have entry and exit points, and will walk a straight line from one to the other, if you let them. Part of your job as military strategist is to set up your towers in a way that will sculpt a path for the ground enemies to follow.

Fieldrunners offers a variety of enemies. You have foot soldiers which come in mini, normal, heavy and biohazard suit wearing varieties. Vehicles, which range from soldier on bikes and trikes, to tanks, trucks and robots. Then you have your air forces which cover variants of planes, helicopters and blimps. I’m sure I missed some too.

So what makes Fieldrunners a shining example of the tower defense genre. Quite a bit really. The graphics are excellent. Everything from the splash screen and explosions to the particle effects and user interface oozes personality and professionalism.This professionalism continues through every aspect of the game.

There is good range of maps, five in total, and for each one you will need to use a different strategy. Trying to use a strategy that worked in one map on another is an instant fail. Maps range not just in their visuals but in there number and placement of entry and exit points, and the kind of enemies you will face. This keeps Fieldrunners fresh and makes an engaging challenge as you attempt to craft a strategy that will beat each map.

Key to your strategy will be tower selection. There is good range of towers. All can attack both land and ground enemies but they range in damage, effect, speed and range. One tower, necessary for any strategy, is the goo tower which slows all but the biohazard suit wearing enemies down.

The controls and user interface is pretty much flawless. The intuitive nature of both will have you placing, upgrading and selling towers in no time. While this game was perfectly suited to the iPhones touchscreen, after a couple of maps I found that PSP controls to be quicker and more enjoyable.

There is a small range of game modes, classic, extended and endless. Classic and extended both have you trying to beat 100 waves, the first with only 4 guns and the later with 8. Endless, is exactly that, an unlimited amount of waves, allowing you to push your score to new limits. All modes have an easy, medium and hard setting.

My only complaint about the game is with the speed up feature. Speed up in tower defense games is essential. There is a lot of downtime as you have either exhausted your funds or are saving up for an expensive tower. There are two problems with the implementation of this feature. One you have to unlock it and two, it’s too slow. Listen, speed up in tower defense shouldn’t be a special bonus it should be an essential part of game play from the beginning. No one likes sitting around doing nothing. Secondly, it’s only x2. This isn’t fast enough. 100 waves take a lot of time to get through. Players should be able to eliminate down time as much as possible.

Fieldrunners aged well after more than a decade after its release.

Admittedly, Fieldrunners does very little to expand on the basic tower defense game play but what it does, it does exceptionally well. If you are a tower defense veteran you will enjoy Fieldrunners. If you are new to tower defense then you couldn’t start off on a better title then Fieldrunners. The only downside is a lot of other tower defense games will seem a little lackluster in comparison. The amount of polish on Fieldrunners makes it shine in every aspect. You might just have to wear sunglasses to play it.

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