Distilled down to its essence, Wind Up Robots by Soma Games is a tower defense game with movable towers. That, however, isn’t saying much or giving it the kudos due. There’s a story behind the game. Zach is a little boy who is just a little wary of the dark and things that go bump in the night. His grandfather Jack has made him a little wind-up robot, which doesn’t just keep him company — it seeks out and destroys the boogeymen! How cool is that?
The actual game starts when Zach goes to sleep and things in the night start appearing from his closet and march up his bed to get him. It is your job to direct the little wind up robot to defend his dreams. The graphics in this game are top-notch and conjure up the nighttime atmosphere in a little boy’s room. The play instructions are a simple overlay over the robot locker, which shows robots on the shelf and the robot locker with slots for robots and items.
You start with Flash the robot, four robot slots in your toy chest and two wind-up keys. As you clear levels, you earn gears that are used to purchase upgrades such as movement speed, range, power and health and coins, which are used to purchase the aforementioned gears as well as cosmetic items to dress up your robots. Each level cleared also unlocks new robots, keys to deploy them with and items that help your defense. Short range, high damage and slow robots, fast, quick and light robots, ones that act like artillery, ground to air missiles, all can be upgraded.
The things that go bump in the night are little dinosaurs. Cute little T-Rexes, fast and hard-hitting triceratops, flying pterodactyls, all jump up on the bed and march upwards toward Zach. The lower levels are all about learning how to control your robots, what they do and how to repair them or switch them out when they are down, as the tutorial doesn’t actually show you that. After that, it’s strategy — how you build out your robot army, how to place them for best defense and directing them.
There are two game modes: story and quick play. Quick play in Zach’s room can be accessed immediately, but the other stages and level — the living room, the tree house and backyard have first to be unlocked by playing the story mode. Zach’s bedroom is pretty straightforward. The battlefield is his bed — which is a clear, flat surface. Once you get into the other stages, you will run into obstacles such as furniture, books, toys and plants — usual objects you might find in a living room, a tree house and a backyard. New boogeymen also are introduced, including a little zombie-like thing (Frankenstein?). I found myself using my capacitative touch stylus for more precise control as the robots are rather small, and although you can pinch zoom and swing the camera, it was easier using a tool for better control than my fat finger.
Wind Up Robots is connected through Apple’s Game Center as well as Open Feint, although there is no need to connect to these social networks to play the game, especially if you are allowing kids to play; it is very kid-friendly.
The graphics, the atmosphere and the story make this tower defense game stand out of the herd. All in all, this is a hidden gem of a game and well worth the 99-cent price tag. In fact, you might be tempted to spring another 99 cents or $1.99 to get the coin pack to upgrade or dress up your robots.