Escape From The Red Planet is a tower defense game, and if you’re looking for something feature-packed and complex, this will not be the title for you. However, if you’re in the mood for a pared down, solid title that doesn’t try to be more than it is, Escape from The Red Planet is a good option.
I know I sound a bit like a broken record when I observe that x or y title doesn’t have much in the way of a story, but Red Planet really doesn’t. The premise is that you’re a space explorer, Commander Blackwell, who crash landed on Mars in 1979. The locals aren’t too pleased at your entrance, and you have to battle them to survive long enough for rescue.
That’s it. That’s the entirety of the game, and that’s really not a bad thing. Red Planet’s developers have opted to take a more focused approach to game design, eschewing adding content for content’s sake, and you know, that’s refreshing.
Red Planet sets out to be a tower defense title, and that’s exactly what it is. There are two additional modes—FPS and Infinite—but they likely won’t wow you. The core of Red Planet is devoted to unlocking new towers and enemy types while juggling the resources you’ll need to complete your missions. Note, there are only 25 of these, and once you’re done, you’re done.
The resource management aspect of the game is fairly straightforward, if not without difficulty. Placing towers requires solar energy, and as you would expect, you begin each level with a paltry amount of this energy, which depletes very, very quickly. The smart strategy is therefore to invest your initial energy into the generators, which will then increase your resource pool. You do have a blaster with which you can defend while you build up your solar energy reserves, so you aren’t entirely defenseless against the initial waves of Martians. After that, it’s a question of finding a balance between tower placement, barricade placement, and the all-important solar generator upgrades.
Seriously, you really do need to focus on the upgrades. That solar energy pool can make or break your engagement. Fortunately, the Martians aren’t mostly speed demons, so you should have some time to recoup your energy investment to expend on towers. You will need to rely on your blaster, though, so do expect to account for that when laying out your strategy. What’s even better about this is that your blaster doesn’t require an energy expenditure, but the trade-off is of course, ammo. You’ll therefore need to keep a weather eye on your ammo pool. I generally prefer to rely on the towers rather than engaging myself, but that’s really not a workable strategy in Red Planet, especially given the rather limited solar energy pool.
Red Planet does offer a pretty solid number of towers to unlock as well as a decent variety of enemies that require a variety of strategies. Generally, however, it introduces these Martian varieties at exactly the same time they introduce their countering tower. For example, you’ll get to unlock Bomb Towers, with powerful area of effect damage, just in time for the yellow Martians to come bearing down on you in hordes. This tendency actually determines one key aspect of gameplay.
Red Planet isn’t a game that rewards advance planning because the enemies tend to require a very specific tower to counter them, and until you know what kind of enemy is coming from which quadrant, you can’t really anticipate what you are going to need until you need it. That’s not a problem for players not interested in grand strategies, but if you’re looking for that kind of gameplay experience, Red Planet will not give it to you. This isn’t to say that Red Planet won’t challenge you because it will, but the challenge lies more in resource management and quick thinking in response to a stimulus than chess-like strategies.
After experiencing the somewhat steep difficulty curve of the levels, you will encounter bosses. These encounters often do require a thoughtful strategy. As the bosses are larger versions of the enemies you’ve faced with deep wells of HP, you’ll have to think more carefully about your approach. I really think the boss battles are where Red Planet shines.
Visually, the title is polished, with clean graphics and an almost arcade-like look, and the soundtrack creates a pleasant retro vibe. However, you’re not really playing Red Planet for its insane graphics. You’re playing it for the towers.
Escape from The Red Planet isn’t going to blow you away with its storytelling or gameplay, but what it will do is offer a respectable tower defense game experience. The 25 missions are straightforward, as are the controls, once you figure them out.
Escape from The Red Planet retails on Steam for an eminently reasonable $5.99.
Stray Thoughts From Behind the Keyboard
- I didn’t care for the computer’s pop-up messages. I found them distracting, but I realize that this is likely my own issue than an issue with game design.
- You’re Commander Abby Blackwell, which I appreciated.
- The floaty platform on which Blackwell sits yielded some weird movement effects.
- Escape from The Red Planet targets the closest enemy first and only very slowly shifts between targets. It’s a minor quibble.
- Let’s be real. I chose the Bomb Tower as an example because Bomb Towers are cool.