PlayStation Network-exclusive Tower Defence game Savage Moon was great. It was bleak, gory and, above all, hugely satisfying. So it is with great pleasure to find Savage Moon has traversed the murky waters that divide the PS3 and the PSP and arrived on the handheld's stunning screen unscathed.
Subtitled The Hera Campaign, Savage Moon on PSP is pretty much the same game as its PS3 big brother. You need to lay turrets on "Imoons" to defend against increasingly difficult waves of Starship Troopers-inspired aliens called Insectocytes. In typical Tower Defence fashion, there are a variety of turrets to call upon, including machine guns, mortars, anti-air and snipers. But there are a variety of Insectocytes gagging to tear your base to shreds, too, including fast moving critters, flying bugs and even those who fire back.
There are few differences, though, most of which are incidental. The Hera Campaign is set within a gathering of Imoons called the Hera Cluster, which has encroached upon earth space. Of course, that's just a set-up for the 20 new maps the game comes with. There are two new species and the never-ending "vengeance mode", too.
Layered on top of Savage Moon's gruesome innards is an odd Risk-style meta-game called "Tactical Layer". Essentially, it's a level select screen with bells and whistles. Before you take on a level, you're able to micro-manage the resources you want to devote to the attack. New towers become accessible when you complete levels, but you need to be careful, because if you fail - and you will fail - the Insectocytes might retake an Imoon you previously cleared. If they do, you're penalised; the associated unit you gained from clearing the Imoon is lost, and it can only be regained by completing the level again. It's a pain in the arse, to be honest. What you end up doing is powering off your PSP as soon as your base's hit points reduce to zero, and reloading your save game, just to avoid running the risk of losing an Imoon.
Instead, The Hera Campaign's strength lies with the core Tower Defence gameplay. It's great because it's easy to learn but hard to master. Your success depends on careful planning, clever strategy and skill adaptation. The idea is to "funnel" the Insectocytes, which always take the shortest route to your base, into kill zones packed with clusters of turrets that are supported by repair towers. To do that, you need to carefully place blocking towers so that the little gits can't avoid your fire. You also need to be mindful of the type of Insectocyte that's coming next. Anti-air towers, for example, can't fire on ground units. Command Skills, which allow you sacrifice damage output for a boost to cash gain and vice versa, are great for micro-managing the battle; when the Insectocytes are at their weakest it's a good idea to boost cash, then switch to increased damage when the going gets tough. Expert players master the art of "juggling" the Insectocytes by laying blocks then destroying them, sending the creepy aliens back and forth like dogs chasing sticks.