DeTweet (Flash game)

DeTweet screenshotI suspect that almost everyone reading this has, at some point in their lives, played a tower defence game. They’ve become hugely widespread, especially online, and they’re the ideal sort of game to play during a lunchbreak at work or when killing time on a laptop – being fun and immediately accessible. The problem is that most tower defence games are much like another. Where do you go now, between the classic Defense of the Ancients experience (currently being revisited by both titans of PC gaming, Valve and Blizzard), the high production values and diversity of Defense Grid, and the genre-crossing ideas of Toy Soldiers – which allows players to hop directly into gun emplacements and aircraft, and indeed makes it an integral part of the experience? Not to mention the huge number of titles that can be found on any Flash game website like Newgrounds?

DeTweet offers one answer – it integrates social networking directly into its gameplay. The idea here is that each of the tiny blue enemies that hop along the path you’ve lined with turrets is a unique message pulled from Twitter. When you start a game you enter a keyword which the game will search for and organise whatever it finds into waves of enemies. Speech bubbles pop up above the occasional enemy – sometimes cute, and sometimes depressing, depending on the content of the message, but you can always hope for the stupid and bigoted ones to get gunned down first. Any tweets that escape your killing zone appear on the left of the screen, along with their author’s avatar and a link to their profile – which adds a bit of personality to the end-game experience. Because you will, inevitably, lose.

See, as an idea DeTweet is great, and I’d rather play it than most other tower defence games. The downside is that as a tower defence game it’s not that great. This is partially down to the game’s funding model, and partially down to its design. The former, first: it’s a donation-based game, with its creator promising to create more content, chiefly gun turret types and maps – of which there’s currently only one of each. It’s a good idea but does run the risk of people not wanting to invest in a game which is presently underdeveloped. That said, its creator is currently working on full versions for mobile stores, so the funding model may yet change.

I've eliminated everyone talking about "Shaun". As for the latter issue of the game’s design – tower defence games are easy to put together in principle, but hard to balance – they can’t be too easy or too hard for risk of putting players off, but working out how to strike that balance – particularly when the game’s enemies are being drawn from social networking content – is a tricky proposition. I might also take issue with some design decisions like making initial tower construction very slow, but upgrades much faster and range increases instantaneous. The game’s visuals are also very crude – it would benefit from the work of a dedicated artist – and there are little issues like the ‘expand range’ upgrade button not updating, so you can only see that more range upgrades are possible thanks to the cost going up. Further, on my first game it took me a while to realise that all towers have a minimum as well as a maximum range – so placement becomes extra important. Relatedly, the game limits you to tower placement in certain pre-defined areas, but the way these areas have been chosen seems partly by design and partly random.

Overall DeTweet is a good spin on the tower defence concept and is fun for a few blasts with some current buzzwords, but I’m concerned that the lack of content and unpolished nature of the whole package may not bode well when combined with its funding model. Still, work is ongoing so it’ll be worth checking in occasionally to see if any new content is available.

Play DeTweet

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