The Creeps is my latest form of Tower Defense addiction. I downloaded this iPhone game for free when I saw Nicole Spagnuolo of the great girl-gamer podcast, Ladies of Leet, tweet about it. For the first thirty minutes, my reaction was similar to that of Defender Chronicles. I hated the visual design and the game was too hard. *whine*

The Creeps!

But it got its hooks in me and I kept playing. And kept playing. After I figured out that I should focus more on upgrading defenses and less on building new ones, the game got a lot easier, while retaining enough challenges to keep me addicted.

There are three modes of play: Survival (which seems to the default mode and is what I’m most familiar with in TD games), Door Busta (kill the door through which the creeps enter so they never come back!), and Endurance (the seemingly infinite mode; I’ve only gotten to wave 140). Each mode has an easy, normal, and hard difficulty setting, and there are acheivements available for each. So you can really tweak how hard you want to go. I haven’t played the Door Busta and Endurance modes as much, but my usual play style is to start a Survival level on easy and progress to the next difficulty after getting all the achievements. I’m filing this post under “First Impressions,” but I’ve actually played through quite a bit of it. Now I’m just going back and filling in the achievements I’ve yet to get, and I made my very first iPhone in-app purchase by paying $.99 for the first level pack, which features adorable dinosaurs and ups the difficulty.

One fun and unique element of The Creeps is the addition of obstacles. Plants, trees, and rocks line the path along which the creeps crawl, blocking key spots for defenses. The cool thing is that you can destroy these obstacles, and there are at least three incentives to do so: 1) Destroying obstacles gives you more money with which to buy more defenses. 2) Getting obstacles out of the way gives you more options for where to build defenses. 3) You’ll earn an achievement if you destroy all the obstacles in any given level. My number one goal when I start a Creeps level is usually to destroy all the obstacles.

I think the cute graphics may be a selling point to many, but they don’t blow me away. Each creep and element is cute and hand drawn, but the over all design and color scheme seems a little disjointed. The Comic Sans-like font set off some serious design alarm bells when I started the game. But it’s grown on me, and the sounds are really really cute.

The goal is to prevent the creeps from getting to the bed of a little kid hiding under the covers, which adds a nice emotional story element. I sure feel bad if I let a creep get to that helpless little kid! There’s not any more story than that, but it’s just enough to make me care.

One annoying thing: If I start a level and accidentally hit the wrong difficulty setting, or otherwise start a level I didn’t intend to play, there doesn’t seem to be a way to exit that level without losing all my saved progress. If I pause, I have the option to restart (which just starts over the same level at the same difficulty), resume (exits the pause, back to the level), or quit. Quitting takes me back to the main screen, where I have the option to Start or Resume. Starting gives me a message that all my progress will be lost if I go with it. So of course I hit No, because I don’t want to lose all my achievements and access to unlocked levels! But hitting Resume just takes me back to the unwanted level which I guess I just have to finish. Oh well. I’m wondering if the progress I’d lose if I hit Start just pertains to that particular level, but I’m afraid to find out, and it seems pretty clear I’d be starting a new game. Any tips on that?

This is the choice I have to make: lose my game or complete the stupid level I accidentally started.

This is the choice I have to make: lose my game or complete the stupid level I accidentally started.

Straphanger review: I started playing this game during the same time my subway commute got longer and more crowded. I’m fine with playing it standing up, with one hand holding a pole for balance and one hand holding the iPhone and using the thumb to build defenses. I am however more prone to pausing the game and running it on normal speed (there is a double speed option) while standing, since my poor thumb is not always fast enough to stay on top of things.

The Creeps! is made by Super Squawk Software and is sold exclusively on the iTunes App Store for $1.99. If you like Tower Defense games on the iPhone, or just want something to fill the I-just-completed-Plants Vs Zombies void, I’d definitely check it out.