Insert Coin: ‘Ivory Tower Defenders’ makes me feel bad to be a college student

Will Podlewski, Columnist

Video gaming isn’t cheap. With a torrent of online passes, downloadable content and system peripherals taking a huge bite out of gamers’ wallets, it’s harder than ever to get a decent value when you plunk down your hard-earned cash for the next big thing. But in an industry that seems to care only about “Call of Duty” and “Assassin’s Creed,” it’s easy to forget that some of the best games out there cost little to nothing to enjoy. That’s why every two weeks, I’ll be showing you a great new way to get your video gaming fix for under $20. So get your quarters ready and game on!

I will freely admit it: I don’t like tower defense games. If you don’t know, these are the games where hordes of enemies swarm you from a top-down viewpoint, and all you are able to do to stop the oncoming rush is strategically place defenses to destroy the enemies before they reach their destination. While generally entertaining in practice, ultimately they suffer from repetitive gameplay and generic locales. Even the most creative of the genre get bogged down by mere virtue of being tower defense games.

In some ways, the newly minted “Ivory Tower Defenders” for 99 cents on iOS and Android is no different; waves of enemies come at you that you turn back with your strategic skill. The gimmick in this one, however, is something that elevates it above the pack of tower defense mediocrity: As the name would suggest, the setting is a college campus, with the player taking on the role of the faculty to defeat waves of students.

It’s an interesting concept. Students ranging from the Slacker to the Artist try to take seats in crowded lecture halls, and it is your job to place defender units like Professors and TAs to beat them back. There’s a generous sprinkling of tongue-in-cheek humor in the game too. The title was developed by Ivy League dropouts, so there’s no surprise some of their more scathing critiques of the higher education system induce a chuckle or two.

Gameplay, however, is pretty tower-defense generic and really doesn’t go beyond the established genre norms. The addition of “honors” high-difficulty stages and unlockables does extend the potential play time though, something that most shovelware titles don’t seem to care about.

Despite the generic visuals and gameplay, the concept of this game alone sold me on it. It was obviously made with love, and even the slightest amount of care that shows through a game scores major points in my book. As a game, judged purely on its merits, it’s “meh,” but as a debut outing and clever critique of the college world, it’s a must-buy.