Deploy various defenses to protect planets from asteroids in this tower defense game.

As it turns out, blasting asteroids in an 8-bit-inspired galaxy to classical piano music is a pretty Zen experience. Commander – World 1 is a quirky combo of old-school graphics, classic gameplay and snarky wit that provides an interesting challenge to strategy game lovers.

In Commander – World 1, you must protect moons orbiting around a specific planet in a solar system. Dangerous asteroids will travel along a dotted-line path, looping and curving around different planets, with the ultimate goal of arriving at the protected planet and destroying its moons, one by one. You must set up defense units (referred to as mercenaries) on each planet. The mercenaries shoot the asteroids, which attack in waves. The more asteroids you destroy, the more money you’ll earn, allowing you to upgrade your different classes of mercenaries to be more powerful and productive in their projectile-vanquishing functions.

Commander

A simple concept, but the game is tough. The in-game text even tells you, “This game is hard,” and it can take “5 to 10 times” to beat a level. You’ll need to really stay on top of your mercenary upgrades to keep up with incoming waves of asteroids, whose traveling speed increases with each wave. Let’s just say that, if huge asteroids were being hurled through space in such number and frequency as in this game, we’d be in big, big trouble. There wouldn’t be enough Ben Afflecks and Billy Bob Thorntons to meet the asteroid-exploding demand.

Though the game’s concept is pretty simple, the action can get pretty wild. Timing your upgrades is critical, because before you know it, a barrage of asteroids has infiltrated your supposedly impenetrable defenses. This speed can chop up your frame rate, depending on the machine you’re using, but it’s a pretty minor setback.

I also would’ve liked to see menus that were easier to navigate and cleaner tutorials. The text windows sometimes overlapped other windows on early levels, which was a bit distracting. I’d also like to have seen more and longer levels.

Commander

On the plus side, this is a fun game with lots of charm, from its retro graphics to its piano soundtrack to its in-game humor. For example, when you beat a level, you’re told, “Thank you, Commander! But our enemy destroyed the system anyway!” as your planets are exploded to old-timey, frenzied music reminiscent of wacky scenes from silent movies. I also enjoyed the fact that the path of the asteroids changed, as did the position of your planets. It really keeps you on your toes, but the fact that the game designates where you can place your mercenaries takes away a certain amount of strategy.

Commander – World 1 is an offbeat tower defense game that may offer few challenges in number, but ones that are high in difficulty. For those players who slant toward strategy games, or for those with an appreciation for video games of yesteryear, this game delivers.