Innovation within the Tower Defense genre is a rare event. More often than not, it wants to mash together two styles of play, like say, a first-person shooter, or by giving you direct control of individual units, and call it new. While that no doubt leads to a more interesting presentation, the results can be mixed. Solar Chaos ($1.00) avoids that and does its best to work within a single genre while still trying something different. That said, it’s still just tower defense.
It gives you the reins to a sun, Solaron, obviously at the center of the galaxy, that is under attack from errant asteroids and aliens. Using a series of rings that extend outward from the center, you can place varying units that then ‘orbit’ around the star, using that strategic rotation to protect it from said threats. You can further tweak this with stationary towers to funnel foes and aid quadrants under heavier siege.
The art and presentation is sharp, the units and their abilities generally well-explained, with tutorials to ease you into the new unlocks earned as you progress. Solar Gems and Gem Shards function as upgrade currency to boost the health / damage / duration of your individual towers and Solaron. Eventually, you’ll take control of entire orbiting planets (with their own units and abilities) to conduct your solar defense. Which is good, because you’re going to be taking on some planet-sized bosses that love to soak up your fire. That also leads to potential trouble.
The biggest issue with Solar Chaos can be the difficulty. Like most TD types, the game really starts to ramp up the challenge in the middle act. Although you’re free to align your defenses the way you prefer and / or have upgraded, each level’s enemy spawns are different, making it quite easy to overextend yourself or build the wrong tools for the job. You can re-sell units (…at a loss, natch), which helps cut down on waste, but when any given stage requires all the cash you can muster to be competitive, being imprecise is a problem. These constant failures can start to feel like a grind to get through, especially if you’re lasting up until the final waves of a round.
As the saying goes, persistence is its own reward. Provided you have it. Solar Chaos employs some new ideas and strategic wrinkles, but keeps on a lot of old TD difficulty issues that rear their ugly head. Still, it’s worth the cost if you enjoy a hearty amount of challenge while galactically rock / paper / scissoring your way to a hard-fought victory.