Tetra3D’s promising brand of puzzling is modified with the addition of some tower defense elements

The art of the remix is a precarious one. While a successful remix can make you look at the original piece of music in a whole new light, fail to treat the source material with enough respect and you’ll be left with an inferior tune. Tetra Defense remixes and embellishes Tetra3D‘s block dropping formula, but loses sight of that game’s core strengths.

It’s a curious outcome, given that the developer of Tetra3D also worked on Tetra Defense. It’s also unfortunate, as Tetra Defense addresses several of the weaknesses of its older, simpler cousin.

Our main criticism of Tetra3D was that it was too basic, lacking the extra features we’ve come to expect of the finest iPhone puzzlers. Tetra Defense attempts to make up for this by adding in elements of the tower defense genre.

The objective is still to form lines of blocks on a 3D playing field, although this time the centre of the cuboid has been taken out of the equation. You’re now lining up blocks single file around the perimeter, as if you were building the outer shell of a house. While this goes some way to rectifying the perspective issues of Tetra3D, it also spoils much of the sense of freedom that came with it.

Tetra Defense - Attack of the Tentacle Tetra Defense - Attack of the Tentacle

The tower defense elements are necessary due to the source of the blocks – a constantly wittering alien invader named Bogey. As he/she/it hovers above, unleashing geometric shapes on the earth below, you can fight back by forming lines (know here as quads), with simultaneous rows of two, three or four causing even more damage to the extra terrestrial. It’ll also secure you more gold for spending on defences.

These come in the shape of four kinds of recharging defensive turrets, which can be placed on all four sides of the playing field. Freezers slow down the dropping pieces, Lasers trim away overhanging blocks, Pluggers plug gaps in your wall and Neutralizers grant you a free quad with each charge. You can also upgrade each turret in true tower defense style.

While these towers are a welcome addition, the truth is that their main use is to make up for the inadequacies of the revamped control system. We thought the controls in Tetra3D were just about spot on, and seeing the results of messing with them in Tetra Defense has only reinforced that view.

You now slide blocks by physically dragging along the four walls. This proves laborious when you can see the point on the grid you want to drop a block in, but have to rotate your finger all the way around an invisible central point to get it there. It’s also easy to mistakenly send a block straight down, which is achieved by swiping downwards anywhere on the screen.

Rotating the blocks is a matter of tapping the screen. The culling of two plains of movement may cut down on complexity, but it also feels restrictive if you’ve ever played Tetra3D.

Even more than that, the game lacks pace and urgency. While that was a strength in Tetra3D, which never pitched itself as anything but a slow, relaxing experience, Tetra Defense‘s attempt to add a sense of threat is at odds with that.

While Tetra Defense addresses some of the issues we had with the game it derives much of its core system from, it does so at the expense of much of what we liked. Ultimately, while we’re sure there’s an outstanding game to be made out of the core of Tetra3D, this isn’t it.