Aliens have invaded and only one man can save the day! No, it’s not Duke Nukem or Chuck Norris, but Commando Jack. Not the most original story line, but it does give you an excuse to blast the waves of enemies that have decided to drop by unannounced. Jack has to travel around the world to fend off the aliens, but since this is a tower defense game, never has to get his hands dirty.
Commando Jack was originally a very well received mobile title that has finally made the leap to PC, but if you are expecting a vastly improved version of the game you might be disappointed. The game plays exactly the same as the award winning original, but considering that the original was specially created for mobile devices this poses a bit of a problem on PC. This by no means makes Commando Jack a bad game as it is still very addictive, but there are a few things that you will have to learn to live with in order to enjoy the game.
First up are the visuals, which are quite charming, but you are not given any control to tweak anything. Even the resolution, which is fixed at 1280X1024, cannot be changed. The game is set across six different locations, with levels in New York, London, Paris, Rome, Tokyo and Cairo. The action is viewed from an overhead perspective, but you are also given the option to take control of a turret and blast enemies in a first person view.
In fact, there is one enemy type which can only be killed from this viewpoint, so you will have to jump into first person mode at least a few times each level. This can’t be done with all turrets, only the one that Jack is sitting in and some others, but it does add a novel touch to the game. Enemies, which consist of alien troopers, UFOs, snipers and even flying sharks enter the levels through portals and start heading straight towards Jack in his turret. If they manage to reach him, they do damage and if Jack runs out of health you lose the level.
The visuals are in 3-D, but you cannot rotate or zoom your viewpoint in any way. You can use the WASD keys to scroll around the levels, but most are quite small. The lack of zoom makes the levels feel a bit claustrophobic at times, but it is something that you get used to after a while. Each area has its own background and theme, but the visuals are far from cutting edge. They do have a certain amount of charm though, and the upside is that the game will run on basically any PC that is less than six years old.
I quite liked the audio of the game and the way how the music is themed around the country in which the levels are set. The sound effects are also very good and heated battles sound just as intense as you would expect. The sound effects and music volume can be adjusted separately, which is always a welcome option.
Gameplay-wise, Commando Jack is a pretty straightforward tower defense title. You are given a certain amount of build points for constructing and upgrading turrets, with more handed over as you kill the enemies. Unlike some other tower defense games though, the enemies don’t’ have set paths and instead you influence their movements with your turret placements. This means that ideally you construct mazes to lead them on a merry chase around the level before they get anywhere close to Jack. However, there are natural obstacles to contend with and you can’t block off their route to Jack altogether. As you place your turrets, a yellow line indicates where the aliens will move, so you can quickly see if your strategy is going to be effective or not.
While the game lists 21 different enemies, there are actually only seven, with a normal, cryo and pyro variation of each. You can choose whether you want to play the original campaign where you only face normal enemies or opt for the mixed/elemental campaigns where the cryo/pyro enemies come into play. With 46 levels in the campaign as well as an endless mode to play, the game definitely has the potential to keep you busy for a while. It took me a few evenings of playing just to complete the original campaign and the other modes as well as multiple difficulty settings mean that there is still plenty to go back to.
The game is free to play on mobile devices, but supports micro transactions, which thankfully has been dropped from this PC release. This means that after your initial purchase you don’t have to pay cash for anything else in the game. According to the publisher the in-game purchases could easily set you back $35 if you wanted to complete everything, so I’m glad this is not an issue in the PC version. Removing the in app purchases did cause a few other issues though, especially with the balance of the game.
Stuff like the “Daily Coins” and coin rewards for the usual social media likes and follows are still present, but you earn so many coins merely from completing levels that all the other methods are largely unnecessary. You use coins to buy new turret types and improving them, but I didn’t have any problems buying everything and upgrading them to their maximum levels with the coins earned in battle. In fact, the powers that you can buy, such as drone attacks, nukes, extra build points, double turret damage and life refills are so cheap that it is easy to abuse them. If you want a real challenge, either play on a difficulty level higher than “Normal” or refrain from using the special powers. You can only use one special power at a time, but even so, they can make the game way too easy which saps some of the entertainment.
Commando Jack is very much a game that is ideal for newcomers to the genre who don’t want to be overwhelmed by too many features. You can only take 8 weapon types into battle and you are shown the weaknesses of each enemy that you are going to face in order to plan accordingly. The weapons are also very straightforward, with stuff like Gloop to slow enemies down, machine guns for regular fleshy enemies and lasers to take down armored or flying foes. These weapons alone are usually enough to beat any level, but you can also lay down sandbags to slow down enemies or place mortars that you can control from a first person perspective. The primary turret that Jack inhabits can also be upgraded to rocket launcher, flamethrower or icethrower varieties in addition to its normal minigun mode.
Apart from the fact that Commando Jack is a straight mobile port, there isn’t much that I can fault about the game. It was addictive enough to keep me playing right to the last level and I definitely had fun playing. I would have liked the ability to at least change the resolution and for the in-game achievements to be tied to Steam Achievements. If you enjoy the genre or want an easy place to get started you’ll have fun with Commando Jack. Players with older computers will also appreciate the low system requirements. If you have been spoiled by state of the art visuals and demand more from your games than straight mobile ports you probably won’t be impressed by Commando Jack. Fortunately, the game is free on mobile, so you can check it out on your iOS or Android device and then get it on PC if you think that it is something you will enjoy.