The castle defense genre is one of the most popular on the iPhone, with hundreds of games to choose from, including such notable titles as Plants Vs Zombies and ZombieSmash. It’s now developer Fizz Pow’s turn to show us what they’ve got with their first game for the iPhone. Can their characteristic defense game called PandaMania – Bow Defense! rank amongst the best the genre has to offer?

The game begins when a Warrior Panda is asleep and an evil little thief appears and steals the Panda’s glorious moustache, known as a Fu Manchu. The Panda’s Fu Manchu is his source of strength and power and therefore he must get it back. As the Panda is wandering through the land looking for his Fu Manchu, screams of help from a nearby village are heard, and the village happens to be being attacked by the same evil creature who stole your precious moustache. PandaMania centers around the heroic Panda, who just so happens to be an expert with a bow and arrow, helping save villages, defeating the evil armies as he goes on his quest to get back his Fu Manchu.

PandaMania has you defending a tower from a variety of oncoming enemies by using just your bow and arrow. You simply pull forward on the bow to aim your shot, and release your finger to fire the arrow. A last shot indicator has been included which is a nice touch as this makes it easier to adjust your next shot incase you need to aim closer or further away. The developers, Fizz Pow, have nailed the sensitivity of the aiming, making it fun and extremely rewarding to take out enemies from long distances.

You are rewarded with gold coins as you defeat the bad guys and complete levels, and you can use these coins to upgrade your weapons and fortify your tower. You start with a standard bow and can upgrade to a fire bow, an ice bow which freezes your enemies, or even add the ability to fire 3 arrows at the same time. You have to wait a small amount of time for these abilities to recharge and therefore using them at the correct time is vital to success in the latter levels of the game. Each of the abilities themselves can be upgraded along with the health of the tower so you’ll have to spend the hard earned coins wisely.

The gameplay in PandaMania is constantly changing due to the fantastic variety of enemies you will encounter. You’ve got the standard boring enemies mixed in with enemies that will rush towards your castle, long range enemies which you must defeat first, enemies with shields, flying enemies and others to add to the equation. Some enemies will appear colored yellow or purple, meaning they have extra health and require additional hits to defeat which adds yet another dimension to your thinking.

Choosing which baddies to take out first in order to stop your tower from taking damage can be a challenge when there are 3 or 4 different types of enemies on the screen at one time, and this makes for some fast-paced fun gameplay. Killing a certain amount of enemies will reward you with “PandaMania” which is where your Panda will fire multiple arrows up into the air at the same time, scattering them over the landscape and likely taking out a bunch of enemies at the same time. The PandaMania meter can rise up to 5x, depending on how long you choose to leave it before unleashing your special ability. The more PandaMania ability you have, the more arrows your Panda will shoot in the air, usually resulting in more enemies being taken out, and therefore you’re rewarded for being patient and avoiding being outrun by enemies early on. If you manage to reach 5x PandaMania, your Panda will unleash a machine gun Rambo-style on the enemies and kick some serious arse, and this is very entertaining to watch; as well as being very helpful!

The game consists of 50 levels spanning 5 different environments and will take a good few hours to complete. Each of the 5 different locations looks completely different from the next and brings along new enemies to conquer and a well-designed boss battle at the end of each “world” so to speak. The boss battles require some accurate aiming as you need to attack the bosses’ weak point in order to make any impact. The game has 3 difficulty levels and therefore adding some replayability if you begin on easy or normal mode, with the hard difficulty mode providing a real challenge.

PandaMania is pure eye-candy throughout and is in my opinion one of the best looking games available for the iPhone at the time of writing this review. The locations throughout the game are vibrant and colorful and the variety will help keep you from becoming bored of the game. The animations are well done and the gameplay runs silky-smooth with not even a hint of slow-down or framerate issues. The story is told via well drawn storyboards which can provide some humorous moments as you play through the game.

In Conclusion

I can confidently say that PandaMania – Bow Defense! has become one of my favorite defense-genre games, matching the high standards set by (possibly more well-known) games such as Plants Vs Zombies and ZombieSmash. The addictive and easy to play, but hard to master gameplay has me playing the game for hours at a time. If you’re even in the slightest a fan of castle defense games, I highly recommend checking out PandaMania, which is a steal at it’s current price of $1.99.