XBLA – Iron Brigade

Now released for free under the Games On Gold promotion, Iron Brigade is a tower defense game which actually puts you on the ground in the middle of the action.

You’re a solder trying to stop the spread of ‘The Broadcast’, being spread by a lunatic and his tube creations – monsters covered with CRTs.  Being nominally set after World War 1, trench warfare is very much the in thing, so robotic mobile trenches have been created.  Obviously.

In each stage you control your trench, which can be fitted out before each mission with a variety of parts, weapons and deployable turrets.  This is where the tower defense aspect comes in – enemies will have specific movement paths across the map for the most part, so you need to lay down the right combination of turrets to destroy them.  Unfortunately turrets cost scrap, and scrap comes from dead enemies – so each level is a balancing act of attacking enemies directly and buying turrets which will slow them down most effectively.  You can also upgrade the turrets but again this costs scrap.

I’m about half way through the second set of stages at the moment, it’s definitely becoming harder to get the gold rating but it’s not yet becoming frustrating which many games in this genre fall into very quickly.  Additionally as you play and find or earn better equipment, you can go back to re-play earlier stages with those upgrades.  Equipment can be dropped by enemies, awarded due to certain goals being met in mission stats, or purchased in the shop.

It’s a nice looking game generally, we’re not talking big budget of course but the visual style is approachable and fresh, everything is pretty well designed and it does a good job of staying at the 30fps target rate.  Sound is a bit more sparse, limited to voice acting and sound effects for the most part with an army drum soundtrack.

Putting the player on the ground isn’t something I’d seen before from this genre, it really does turn the experience around for the better – my only slight complaint is that it can be hard to see where enemies are coming from at times, it would really help if they’d added a small map radar somewhere.  Other than that, this is a great little title and I’d recommend it to anyone who has a Gold subscription.  It’s probably not very expensive if you don’t, either.