For those of you that missed Anomaly: Warzone Earth, here’s the lowdown on what to expect from this PC sequel. Have you ever wondered what it might be like to be the offense in a tower defense game? Well, the Anomaly series does just that. It flips the script and allows you to be the aggressor. You control the assault while the aliens do their best to hold their ground. For fans of tower defense, it’s a transformational experience that has to be played to be understood.

Anomaly 2 takes place well in the future after alien invaders have taken over the Earth. A small set of survivors and soldiers remain to battle for mankind. Only with their gear can they slowly rebuild our armies to save the world from the evil alien menace. Meanwhile, the aliens are hell bent on beating back the anomaly that is the surviving human race.

Like its predecessor, Anomaly 2 is a tower offense game. For the most part, the gameplay has stayed true to the original game with some strategic tweaks here and there. Players build up a small train of offensive units designed to take down an array of alien towers. These defensive structures are strategically placed along a set of pathways that your offensive units have to traverse. As players proceed through multiple stages, they will unlock new weapons, face advanced enemies and tactics, and have to juggle four different offensive upgrades. Each of the unlockables adds new dimension to the gameplay and raises the difficulty from one stage to the next.

Because of the similarities to the first game, while playing Anomaly 2, a certain deja vu becomes apparent. While progressing through each level, a new skill always seems just around the corner. At some points, it feels as if the single-player exists as a giant tutorial. This approach to level design worked in the first game because the developers were crafting an all-new gameplay dynamic. Unfortunately, because Anomaly 2 is a sequel, it gives the impression to experienced players that they are being tutored again. In other words, why the hell do I need to learn yet again how to play a game I’ve already mastered? Why can’t the tutorial aspects be optional for new players and I can jump right into the fray?

Despite the repetition in gameplay, Anomaly 2 isn’t a complete rehashing of the first game. Two new attacks challenge experienced players to adapt their strategies to new strengths and weaknesses. One of the attacks launches an EMP to powers down enemy towers. In my experience, this allows for a nice pause in the assault and allows my depleted shields to regenerate. The other new attack allows players to target one tower in particular. Previously, Anomaly targets only the closest tower in your train’s pathway. This would hinder players hoping to eliminate one of the tougher enemies as soon as possible. Unfortunately, I did not use the targeting attack as frequently as the EMP attack because my strategies were designed to avoid lopsided assaults.

Also new to Anomaly 2, is the transformation of units. Just like how Autobots transform, assault units can switch roles to better adapt to varying enemies. Transformation is introduced very early in the game and challenges players to manage another new tactical element of their strategy. Because each unit has been designed with two modes in mind, you will find yourself constantly transforming to better handle the pathway ahead. For close-up attacks you’ll need to flip your units to flamethrowers and for far-off attacks you will need to flip to tank guns. Adding another strategic element is a welcome addition and required me to be much more nimble with my mouse than I had expected.

While much of the gameplay seems very similar to the first game (if ain’t broke, don’t fix it), the graphics in Anomaly 2 have seen a major upgrade. Although I was playing the game on a pretty lightweight desktop computer, there is no doubt that a lot of effort put into making this a gorgeous game. I loved the detail of each of the levels, the animations are well designed, and for a $15 title, Anomaly is one of the best looking in its class.

The developers have taken full advantage of the game’s small map sizes to insure that as much graphical detail as possible has been squeezed out. Unlike traditional modern games that have players exploring 3-D maps until their confined by walls, Anomaly 2’s graphics benefits from a limited playing field that guarantees players will never run into an invisible wall or clip through a physical structure. With that in mind, I am still impressed by incredible work done by the artists from 11 bit studios.

Overall, Anomaly 2 is a good sequel that borrows a little more than necessary from its predecessor. On the single-player standpoint, new and old players should feel challenged by the game but returning fans might feel like they are playing a prettier version of the previous game. Although I loved the new transforming mechanic, the rest of the gameplay felt like much of the same from the previous one. Still, for the inexpensive launch price of $15, Anomaly 2 is a worthy investment for fans of tower defense games and strategy games. The Anomaly series still has the market cornered on this new and intriguing genre of tower offense.

This review is based on a retail copy of Anomaly 2 for the PC.

7.5 out of 10 arcade sushi rating