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Confessions of a mobile tower defence game addict

It all started last summer when I was out for a curry with some friends. While we were all totting up the bill, a friend whipped out his iPhone to work out who owed what and afterwards he started playing Fieldrunners.

I’d heard about Fieldrunners (pictured above) before and assumed that it was some kind of fitness app. Intrigued, I leaned over and saw that it was actually a game which looked a little bit like Advance Wars on the Game Boy Advance. “Oh, so that’s Fieldrunners. Can I have a go?”

“Sure,” he said handing his phone over. “Trust me you’ll be hooked but you’ll need to buy an iPhone to play it.” Yeah whatever guys. I’d read about people who had become addicted to social networks and the Internet but surely a little tower defence game couldn’t hurt right?

If you’ve never played Fieldrunners or a ‘Tower Defence‘ game before (there are several) here is a short introduction: Advancing waves of enemy troops, tanks and aircraft are trying to get from A to B. Your job is to prevent them, by way of installing numerous gun and missile tower emplacements along the way. You have a health meter which reduces by one each time an enemy unit makes it all the way across the field. The game ends once you complete a level or all your health has been depleted.

After my first taste of tower defence I was hungry for more. It didn’t take long for me to find an Android version. Lupis Labs’ Robo Defence, or the free trial version to be precise, is in the top ten of the Android Market’s games. Robo Defence Free only gives you the first map, ten levels of difficulty plus a limited selection of upgrades. The full version costs about £1.99 and gives you three more maps and a random level generator, allowing for a near infinite number of maps with varying numbers of exits.

Robo Defence (pictured above) is similar to Fieldrunners in many ways, but there are a number of subtle differences. Fieldrunner’s sprites are big, colourful and cartoony, whereas the enemies in Robo Defence are, as the name suggests, big hulking robots. Fitting for the Android platform perhaps, not to mention slightly more politically correct than the hapless hordes of human soliders you get to shoot down and incinerate with gunfire, missiles, lasers, Tesla coils, flamethrowers and so on.

I became seriously obsessed with Robo Defence. I was convinced that I was some kind of stragetic genius. I found myself idly daydreaming of elaborate maze-like tower formations, different combinations of mines, flamethrowers, etc. I knew it had to end at some point so I gradually weaned myself off of Robo Defence. I still play it on the odd train ride home but it’s not a problem any more.

Recently, I went for another meal with the person who introduced me to Fieldrunners about six months ago. “I see you didn’t get an iPhone in the end. Weren’t that hooked on Fieldrunners then?” If only he knew…