The nicest thing you could say about Jelly Defense is it’s a game made by somebody who has played a hell of a lot of tower defence games and taken a thorough set of notes along the way. It’s a competent foray into a genre where competence alone is no longer enough. So come to think of it, that’s probably one of the most derogatory things you could say too.
As has been etched into lore, the player’s task is to safeguard a nest of shiny doohickeys for reasons. In the bigger picture, these glimmering bibelots are vital to saving the Jelly Kingdom from doom’s prying fingers. The Jelly Kingdom – a small planet with a gigantic penis protruding from its southern hemisphere – is worth saving for, you know, reasons. And the enemy, which in Jelly Defense’s case is a swarm of gummy masochists, attempt to thieve the trinkets for, er, other reasons. They do this not by launching a couple of orbital nukes onto the Jelly Kingdom, but by traipsing through winding bridleways stewarded by brutal war-towers the player erects. Logic, there is none, but without that lapse in intelligence there’d be no tower defence.
Upgrades arrive at a trickle and, for the most part, you’ll be dicking about with the machine gun tower, the splash-damage tower and the tower that’s capable of raining pain down on anyone, but isn’t much good against anyone either. The first tower you unlock? Only that old stalwart the slow-‘em-down turret.
Likewise, the jellies – though lovely to look at – are all stock personalities; brisk but frail guys, the tough but slower chaps, the occasional boss. Jelly Defense’s only real contribution to the pool of stagnating tower defense traits is its red and blue dynamic. Red towers can only fire upon red jellies, you see, and the same goes for blue. All this really means is that half the towers will take a little nap while the other half are working overtime and, in practice, it’s no different to having a subset of enemies able to fly out of the range of certain towers. Except it doesn’t make sense.
The schism between blue and red enemies means you have to plan for contingencies (you’re in a pickle if you’ve built a fearsome armada of red towers and suddenly the blue guys rock up). But with no way of telling what’s headed your way, no checkpoints and no rewind function, Jelly Defense subscribes to that most archaic of notions that you must first memorise the order of enemies before you’re able to effectively finish a level.
And that means failing. You’ll fail if you build the wrong towers. Fail if you don’t plan for contingencies. Fail if you’ve put towers on the wrong pathway and so forth. Failure arrives often and Jelly Defense is in desperate need of a checkpoint system to combat the fact that rounds last upward of 20 long minutes.
There’s also an infuriating coin-collecting aspect at ends with the routine strategy. Money doesn’t simply accrue in a bank account, you have to manually collect every dropped coin. This tends to result in inadvertently prodding a tower and prompting a pop-up screen every time your sausage fingers miss the mark. There’s nothing enjoyable about swiping the screen while you’re trying to contemplate the next maneuver, but then Jelly Defense isn’t targeted toward an audience accustomed to lengthy bouts of inactivity while strategies pan out.
It’s tower defence by the books then, and at a time when the need to have something to differentiate from the crowd is greater than ever. Competent yet sober and unenterprising, Jelly Defense fails to add anything to a genre buckling under the weight of me-too clones.