You could be forgiven for not knowing about the gigantic solar war that took place in the 1940s. Most of it happened in space.
I am of course referring to the defence of Earth’s massive stellar satellite system, which was mercilessly attacked on the outer edges of Pluto, first by the Gorg inhabitants of the mysterious Planet X, and then later joined by the bloodthirsty Brain Riders of Venus, led by the treacherous and beautiful Sereia.
In The Unstoppable Gorg, you control the actions of Captain Adam Huxley, who is manifested as nothing more than a mouse cursor, as he takes on the teeming endless hordes attacking the various Earth space stations. Yes, it’s tower defence, although much like Anomaly: Warzone Earth, it adds a surprising and worthwhile twist on the old formula, while keeping the Flash Gordon/Ed Wood pulp sci-fi cheese amplified to level 11.
The game field is arranged simply on one screen as a representation of the classic solar system diagram, with your base at the center, and a handful of rings radiating from there. Each ring contains a number of nodes to which you can deploy satellites like the Vulcan Cannon, Solar Generator, or Missile Silo. These fill the traditional tower roles. On the periphery appear huge alien warships which spew out attackers on a delineated path moving towards the center. These warships will change position frequently, highlighting new attack paths that you must adjust to deal with. The rings can be rotated by dragging them in place, swivelling cannons to meet new trajectories – but because the nodes on each ring are fixed, this can cause complications, as you are sometimes moving multiple towers simultaneously, and probably exposing another earlier path that was previously covered. There are no wave indicators here, but a simple progress bar showing the length of the entire attack. Before each round you’ll be prompted to choose which satellite types to deploy, as well as spend research credits to upgrade towers before the battle.
A couple of notes about this particular tower defence game: the enemies can attack your satellites, which means you must keep an eye on their repair levels. They can also split off, multiply, and swarm. The aliens seem to have at least as many tricks in their arsenal as Captain Huxley, and you will find yourself being pummeled by Brain Balls and Gorg Saucers before too long.
The Unstoppable Gorg is tricky. Fiendishly tricky. It doesn’t seem like it ought to be so at first, as the playfield is nothing too complicated; typically only 4-8 nodes per board. The rotation, and multiple pathfinding, will do your head in before long. Unlike many other games of this type – where you would deploy defences hurridly at the beginning of the round and then watch to see if you had guessed right – here you have to be on your toes at all times, watching as the attack changes and shifts. It’s all too easy to let some of the bigger enemies slip through and not even have a gun in an orbit within range, leaving you to watch helplessly as the saucers burn white hot laser death into your base.
The tower – sorry, satellite – selection itself is nice and varied, if a little predictable. There are 18 types in all. In addition to the support towers (only one kind of resource, energy) and the usual guns and missiles, you also get some “bomb” type single-deploy weapons, like a Slow effect. Each level tends to award the player with a new satellite type at the end, so the carrot is always fresh. If you somehow managed to build a Research base (eating a precious node) and won the level, you’ll be awarded with points to put into satellites next round, cumulatively. In this way you can also beat some of the harder later levels by going back and getting that Research token on some of the easier attacks.
In between the levels we are treated with a surprisingly funny Lost Skeleton of Cadavra-style sequence of interstitial videos, lovingly recreated with wires and crappy film jumps and some truly high camp in the live action. This is where the game gets a chance to wrap some pulpy story bits around the proceedings, and it is pitch-perfect in tone, working in tandem with the musical score to conjures a 40s-gumshoe-upright-bass-space-war sort of vibe, with just the right amount of theremin. They’re not too long, and you look forward to the next piece of schlock at the end of each attack. (Just check out their trailer for a nice dose.)
Even in the menu work, the various scattered mememtoes and other bits of flair made me think back fondly to the Cinemaware games on the Amiga. It’s these little details that often make the difference between window dressing and real atmosphere.
With 21 levels in all, it might seem a bit on the short side, but let me assure you that it will take some doing gettting all the way through. I must admit that for my part, as of this writing I was marooned somewhere around level 9, where deadly space radiation inflicted constant damage on my machinery while I was busy trying to keep things safe from the psionic beams of the Brain Riders.
The game runs incredibly smoothly even at ungodly super-HD resolutions, and best of all it has a Mac version as well as Windows. Both were tested, both run identically. I am curious to try out the iPad version of the game, as it seems ideally suited, control-wise.
And certainly, for the pittance of $10 (on Steam), The Unstoppable Gorg comes highly recommended.
tl;dr For those of you like your UFOs saucer-shaped, your aliens horribly betentacled, your women beautiful and pliant, and your lasers scintellating, you could do a hell of a lot worse.