Steampunk Tower bills itself as "the one tower defense game," and it's a clever, if not playfully cocky way of describing the app. It literally is just one tower pitted against a horde of enemies, but the actual phrase infers that this adventure is the gold standard of its genre. I'm all in with any kind of artistic endeavor with a steampunk swagger, but does this app live up to its audacious description?

On a purely visual level, Steampunk Tower over delivers with its bargain basement $0.99 price tag. Although there are in-app purchases available after you throw down your money, they don't serve as a mandatory element to your enjoyment. As you climb up the military ranks with each successful campaign, weapon and technological upgrades can be earned by sheer hard work and without any further financial obligation.

When an app's menu catches one's attention for more than a couple of seconds, one can only hope the actual game is just as intricate and detailed. Although this isn't exactly a throw back Thursday, here's a photo of my Staff Sergeant days.

The one tower based mechanic may give gamers a more one dimensional view of a battlefield, and if you love seeing the broad expanse of a military campaign, then this app may feel a bit constricting. Having a solitary fighting unit does have its distinct advantages, as instead of building towers through a vast terrain, you're focusing on building an epic, bad ass fighting machine. Thus your tasks are primarily focused on purchasing and upgrading machine guns, cannons, and Nikola Tesla inspired weapons.

As your rank and level increases, your tower gets taller, giving you the chance to add weapons to both sides of the tower. Sometimes, however, you'll need a power up to eviscerate the advancing enemies. When the tower's gunfire is epic failing against your adversaries, give these future corpses a taste of your Lightning Wave!

During the engagements, weapons will have their artillery gradually depleted, but moving them to the bottom of the tower will replenish all those bullets and bombs. Sending your machines to the ground floor also enables the requisite weapon upgrades, and since you'll be making tons of money during your battles, bedazzling your machine guns is a pretty easy (and necessary) chore.

Part of the app's steampunk influences is felt in its store function, as gamers will spend Tower Points to research new technologies to improve their various weapons. These upgrades are not just forward progressing, as earlier incarnations of your device can also receive that magic touch. For example, since my saw launcher research has extended into more destructive avenues, I only have 659 Tower Points to spend. Rather than save up currency for these additions, I'll spend 200 points to improve my "Fang's" firepower.

It's truly hard to screw up a tower defense game, since the idea of protecting a fortress while eliminating scores of enemies is just pure fun. Steampunk Tower's true value rests on its ability to surprise you with a new enemy or crafty weapon with each succeeding level. One of the many joys of loving a steampunk universe is its dedication to invention and innovation. My latest showdown involves a couple of machines that could have been part of an early Empire Strikes Back storyboard. They're called walkers, and don't worry about their size since they pretty easy to take down.

Steampunk Tower may be a bit too easy for its own good, especially since Tesla infused guns have a way of electrifying everything in sight. Still it's an arresting enough app to overlook that minor shortcoming. It may not be that "one tower defense game," but thanks to its nuanced creativity and spot on execution, it sure comes close.


App Store Link: Steampunk Tower for iPhone & iPad | By Chillingo Ltd. | Price: $0.99 | Version: 1.0 | 56.1 MB | Rating 9+

8.0 out of 10 arcade sushi rating