I've been playing Anthill for many hours now, and I must say it's a total blast. While we see a lot of different zombie-like strategy games and tons of 'Tower Defense' games, with Anthill it feels like a breath of fresh air. Why you ask. Well, I'm here to answer; first of all, what the Swedish developer Image & Sound is calling their new game isn't 'Tower Defense'. Instead they refer to it as a 'Trail Defense' type of game. This is something I agree on and it's not just something they call the game to seem unique.
[We have an exclusive preview and interview of Anthill here.]
Second, this time around you control different type of ants and need to defend your anthill from various evil bugs (although, they do look pretty cute). It's an intensive strategy gaming experience where you need to think quickly and react accordingly. Me being a big tower defense and strategy game fan, Anthill immediately got me immersed into it's world and as mentioned in the recent Anthill preview and interview we had with Image & Sound you really do feel that you want to root for the Ants.
You need to take care of several things in order to keep your anthill safe and prevailing. These things are resource gathering, in form of food. Defending your anthill is another important task, but you also need to plan how you want to pick up the food you're after in the most efficient way, since it's heavy to carry and takes awhile to bring back to your hill.
Furthermore, there's constant waves of these evil bugs coming, which leads me to talk about the main feature of Anthill, the so-called trail / stream system. Here you have pheromones, basically a way to draw different trails and then dispatching a certain type of ant that you want to walk along it. So let's say you want to defend in a circle around your anthill, then you select the soldier ants (or whatever ant you prefer) and draw a pheromone trail for them to walk around in. If you feel you want to change it, you can remove the trail, make another one and so on. Same goes for gathering resources and shiny objects. The only ant type that don't need to use the pheromone trail is the air striking ants. They fly and bomb the bugs, evil critters!
Does this sound confusing and complex? Sure does! But don't worry, it's not. One of the things I totally dig about Anthill is the level of detail and polish Image & Form have given the controls. Seriously, they're very fluid and it's a breeze to control your ants and do all the tasks you need to. The added sound effects when interacting with the user interface is well suited for what you do as well, adding even more flavor to an already really well functioning system.
Diving into the details on the various ants you have, there's worker ants who collect things for your anthill and supply everyone with food. Food is used as a currency to buy more ants. Also, as mentioned earlier, soldier ants exists which serve as the melee (short-ranged) ants that defend and kill those evil critters. Also in your line-up of ants, there's the spitter ants, who are long-ranged. The most powerful ant (in my opinion) is the flying bombing ants, which can be directed anywhere on the screen without the use of the trail system, they fly to their instructed destination and throw down bombs, majorly hurting whatever might be in their way. They do need to fly back to restock on bombs though.
Anthill has a good amount of content, three different 'campaigns' with different areas and looks. With a total over over 20 levels. As you start out, you can't chose any of the campaigns or levels, you need to start in the first campaign and slowly unlock the rest, depending on your performance. Also, not all ants are available in all campaigns and maps, although Image & Form's CEO explained to me in our recent interview that they made the flying bomber ant available quite early so it wouldn't be too hard to overcome some of the crazy challenges you encounter… because you will encounter them!
What type of bugs can you encounter in Anthill is probably something you must have asked yourself by now. Well, there's a nice mix. All from ladybugs that eat up the resources you need to collect, so these has to be dispatched quickly, there's also anti-air ant bugs, and large bugs that could be compared to bosses. Of course you encounter bugs that attack from ranged and also within short range. All in all, I'm very pleased with the mix of bugs you encounter, because that's one of my major grips with some games; that they don't play enough detail to the monsters you encounter, it's easy for a game to feel very generic then. Fortunately, this problem does not plague Anthill at all.
Believing that Anthill is at around 20 MB in size is hard, because it's very beautiful to look at, the music is relaxing and the sound effects fit in well with the overall theme of the game. Your retina display on the iPhone will display a colorful and beautiful game and on your iPad it's even nicer (mainly due to the big screen).
With the option to use many different combinations on how to dispatch your ants with trails (star-shaped defense anyone?) and a upgrade system for your ants, where you use stars that you gain by completing levels (better performance = more stars) Anthill provides the player with a very interesting, fun, intuitive and challenging game.
Anthill also has a very nice tutorial at the start of the game to bring in players that are new to games like this (well, Anthill is quite unique, but similar ones) and make them stick around to progress further into the game with minimal frustration.
There's also Game Center support, by the way.
Two other things I feel is worthwhile to mention is that there's a way to purchase stars with real-life money, but since there's not a ton of stars required overall to upgrade, you can't spend that much money on it, and as always you can progress in the game without having to spend any real money on stars. The other thing is that if you've completed the game, you need to go into the settings menu to 'reset your progress' in order to start over.
All in all, I recommend Anthill to about anyone, since it's easy to get into and has a lot to offer. Plus you get to take care of your very own Anthill through over 20 different levels!
Unbound Gamer Score: 90%
Fluid and well-polished controls.
'Trail defense' is a bit unique in it's kind and well executed.
Looks great with matching sound and music.
Upgrade system for your ants.
Plenty of content, over 20 levels.
Missing true multiplayer support.
Could use different difficult levels, if you want even more of a challenge.
Beastiary, this game would do so well with one.