Spice Bandits iPhone/iPad review

Spice Bandits iPhone/iPad reviewHa! Spice Invaders! Very clever, Chillingo. Now all that remains is to review what must be a cheap and cheerful arcade shooter and knock off early... what's that? A tower defence game? With loads of unlockables and solid multiplayer? For free?

Touché. And to avoid this problem ever happening again, they've renamed it Spice Bandits.

Spice Invaders Bandits may be pretty, meaty and free, but is there a sting in the freemium tail?

It's getting to the stage where I might just pen a document entitled "this is what tower defence involves" and just link to it every time a new game hits the App Store. You know the drill: defend your home base from waves of enemy forces, deploy static towers, upgrade them, move on.

While many games have been tinkering around with the genre in terms of new and exciting mechanics, Spice Invaders is very much a bare-ones, rigid and formulaic affair - which is to say that it works well and provides some varied level design that encourages you to plan ahead without ever forcing us out of our comfort zone. Enemies will plan new routes around your most dangerous defences, but the overly-familiar array of towers allow us to jump into the action immediately. It ain't broke, so on5 Games didn't fix it.

Spice Bandits iPhone/iPad review

What on5 did,  however, was to offer us a massive amount of content. Completing levels and gaining persistent character levels grants you Spice: a ubiquitous currency that can be spent on reams of tower upgrades, branching tech trees, buffs, cosmetic clothing and much more. Various gametypes including regular defence and sudden death gives us an inordinate amount to see and do... before we even mention the multiplayer suite.

Oh yes. Spice Invaders provides multiplayer tower defence gametypes for between 2-6 players. And it works. Cooperative games are tense and exciting ways of meeting new Crystal chums (and abusing them over Team Chat, if my experience is anything to go by), whereas competitive brawls descend into manic scraps as each player does their best to block off attack routes and deny ground to enemy towers. Utterly mad, and brilliant to boot.

And because experience and spice carries over between singleplayer and multiplayer games, you'll continually develop your character both online and off.

Graphically, Spice Invaders is a mixed bag. The menus and GUI are thoroughly gorgeous, though the actual gameplay experience is a little on the bland side. It does the job, but the in-game sprites lack definition and personality. Thankfully, occasional speech bubbles help to make your towers and foes feel less like mindless automatons and more like genuine characters - with the added benefit of reminding you if certain towers aren't positioned in a particularly useful place.

Spice Bandits iPhone/iPad review

So what's the catch?

Come on, you know there's going to be a catch. It's a freemium game after all.

Adverts are the first problem. Spice Bandits will do its best to constantly sell you stuff... which can be disabled by paying some money. Unfortunately, this service is locked to your Crystal account rather than Apple ID, and many users have reported that it often doesn't carry over to your other devices. But hey, skipping an advert is a small price to pay for a free game.

Of course, Freemium Grind is Spice Bandits' biggest money-spinner. Spice is the lifeblood of your empire, but you earn it in such tiny amounts that the glittering IAP button becomes more lusciously tempting every time you complete a game. Resist, however, and you'll discover that dedication can reap its own reward. Just a lot slower.


  • Loads of content
  • Addictive upgrade system
  • Fantastic multiplayer
  • Freemium - whether this is a pro or a con is down to you


  • Unoriginal and repetitive
  • Bland in-game art design
  • Freemium - whether this is a pro or a con is down to you

Summary: Spice Bandits is a big and brilliant free game - by the numbers but immensely satisfying. Excellent multiplayer makes for an essential download.

For the record, though, I'd have paid £2.99 for an advert-free version with more generous spice rewards.

Developer: On5 Games

Compatibility: Compatible with iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPod touch (3rd generation), iPod touch (4th generation) and iPad.Requires iOS 4.0 or later.

Price: Freemium - App Store

Spice Bandits iPhone/iPad review

Read more about: iOSApple iPad 2Apple iPhone

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SPICeINVADERS  Feb. 14, 2012 at 04:00



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