Since its initial inception the Tower Defence genre has been on the rise. Games like Plants vs Zombies, Sanctum and so on are at the forefront of experimentation in the genre and have managed to create something unique for themselves. Newer triple A titles are beginning to incorporate aspects of the genre too, such as Assassin’s Creed and Gears of War. So while Shad’o is still living in what I would call the early days of this genre, it has a lot of competition in the market.

What Shad’o brings to the table is a clever visual style and a storyline that may just go a little bit further than your average Tower Defence title. Sadly what it really lacks is a defining feature to the gameplay. Shad’o takes the tried and true formula and holds on tight, while this doesn’t ruin the game I really wish they had attempted something more, as the visuals and story are something new and a change up in gameplay would really push it over the edge into brilliance.

Enemies walk a scripted path and you lay down weapons to fight them off, the only change to the classic gameplay is that the map is coated in dark clouds that stop you from planting weapons, to clear them you need to place a weapon in sunlight; the weapon automatically lights up the area surrounding it, allowing you to place more in that spot until uncovering the map. While I understand this choice in relation to the storyline (more on that later) it just proves to be a nuisance as you can’t get a feel for the map or see where your enemies are coming from.

Along with this comes a steep learning curve, the first few levels are pretty simple and although they’re rather easy they do help in getting used to the Tower Defence genre if you’re new. Sadly once you have got to grips with things the game decided to take a nose dive and plummet you into levels that you would expect to experience at a later point in the game. This requires you to go back to previous levels on “Nightmare” mode and play through them to unlock upgrades before being able to progress.

Shad’o has you playing the role on a young boy who has lost his memory. He travels his nightmares with a teddy bear sidekick in search of his past. Each level has a distinct setting and upon completion you’re rewarded with one more tiny narrative moment about what’s happened. While it’s not a groundbreaking story or even one you will feel invested in, it’s a great addition and something Shad’o really needed. As said the game is all about exploring his nightmares and this is where the visual style really shines, each level is an object from his past and the nightmares all have that Tim Burton feel to them, and while Tim may have worn out the style himself, this game benefits from such a setting.

While the game lacks in any new gameplay and comes with a steep difficulty curve for anyone that’s not a veteran of the genre, it does earn credit for the inclusion of a decent story and visual style. At the core though this is meant to be played for fun and I just can’t see much being had here. If you’re interested in games with a unique visual flair then go ahead, but if you want a fun Tower Defence title, I suggest looking elsewhere.