Japanese developer iNiS -- the name's an acronym for "infinite Noise of the inner Soul" -- has spent the past decade and a half perfecting the art of the rhythm game. From classics like Gitaroo Man and Elite Beat Agents to not-so-classics like last year's DLC-packed Demon's Score, iNiShave mastered the melding of sound and gaming. Their latest, tower defence variant Eden to Green, is far removed from those musical roots.
Eden to Green is really a tower offence game, rather than a tower defence game. Instead of placing your defensive and offensive units in fixed locations, the goal here is to gain ground. The world of Eden is overrun by unfeeling yet oddly-expressive machines, and you're tasked with planting the seeds of natural reclamation.
The troops in your plant army serve various functions. Some attack mechanical interlopers automatically. Some serve as barriers. The most important, however, are the plants that extend the influence of the green -- they're the core of the entire game.
For example, one stage begins with a pair of spikes on the far side of the playing field. These serve as anchors of chains binding one of the world's great trees. Beginning with a small patch of green, the player must extend their verdant grasses forward until the spikes are consumed, freeing the tree to blossom and covering the battlefield with fresh growth. Other stages might require a certain number of enemies be defeated. It's a quite varied garden.
Your leafy army is assembled not through progression, like Plants Vs. Zombies, but rather through a collectible card mechanic, gathering, cloning and evolving cards into new forms as they play. Players pay coins earned through battle (or gems purchased with real-world cash) for a chance to bloom fresh plant creatures. The more expensive the bloom, the more likely a rare spawn will show up and thus will dedicated players be dumping tons of cash into this free-to-play defence game.
Mind you, there's plenty to do in Eden to Green that doesn't require cash at all. Coins gathered through normal play are aplenty, ensuring a regular flow of new plant creatures. There are more than 70 maps to conquer, as well as special daily challenges where unique troops can be won. iNiS promises a steady flow of fresh free content, so it's worth keeping it around on your tablet or phone once you've cleaned things up.
The problem here, and maybe it's just a side-effect of iNiS' publishing partnership with Zynga, is that it feels like Eden to Green really wants me to spend money. Rotating ads in the main menu, the tease of rare plants purchased with gems -- it's not being coy about its pay structure whatsoever. I expect that from traditional mobile developers, but I was hoping I wouldn't get it from iNiS.
Still, Eden to Green is a gorgeous game with challenging gameplay that extends far beyond tower defence games that served as its inspiration. There may be no rhythm here, but there's an intoxicating freshness that can't be denied.
Eden To Green
Genre: Tower Offense Developer: iNiS Platform: iOS, Android Price: Free