Nanuleu Review: The Mobile Minimalist Tower-Defense Game About Trees
When it comes to mobile games, I haven't ever been able to find the one that I am able to just waste hours with. With mobile games, it seems that I will get ahold of one and play it for maybe a week; then forget it exists. There's something about the nature of them that has just seemed to never hold my attention for long. Having played the mobile tower-defense game Nanuleu, I can say that I still haven't found the mobile game to keep my attention.
Nanuleu is a minimalist tower-defense game from Selva Interactive. The game was released on June 30, 2016 for $2.99 on the Apple app store. The game begins with a green grid map with different symbols on it and a white tree in the center. The camera zooms in on the white tree and a dialogue box appears telling you that invaders are coming and you must defend the land. The game tells you that in order to win, you must plant the five life trees.
From here, the game teaches you how to plant roots away from the white tree. You tap on one of the squares next to the tree and a wheel pops up with all the trees available to plant. At the start, you only have access to roots. When planting any new item, you are shown the cost for planting it. You'll use 3 forms of resources: life, water, and mineral. These resources come from the other trees that you are able to plant.
The catch is, you can only plant them on their corresponding symbol on the map and everything must be connected to the center tree. The symbols are color coded to which tree is able to be planted there. There are blue symbols for water trees, yellow symbols for mineral trees, and white symbols for the life trees.
From here you can start planting to start accumulating these resources. The most common symbols on the map are the yellow and blue symbols, so it's wise to spend a bit of the early game planting to get these trees under your belt. After a couple of minutes planting and accumulating resources, you are informed that an invader has appeared on the map.
When an invader appears on the map, they bring a new section of the map with them and a black tree appears with a small patch of black land around it. These trees are able to spawn little enemies that start to move toward your collection of plants to destroy them. Enter the protector tree, which can be planted on any of the blank tiles on the map and are able to shoot the enemies that the black trees spawn.
So after planting your way to the life tree area and planting those trees, you are given a new kind of tree to build. This tree is called the war tree. The war tree is able to spawn your own little meeps that are able to attack the black trees themselves. Once all the black trees have been defeated, you win the game.
Now along with the main objective of planting the life trees and destroying the black trees, there are a couple other bonus objectives that you are able to try and complete. One of these is to defend these items on the map called altars. In all the games I've played, I have yet to defend any of these. It is more hassle to defend them than it is to lose them. The only penalty you have when you fail to defend the altars is that you aren't rewarded with the bonus points for defending them at the end of the game.
The other objective is beating the level in a certain amount of time. Again, I have not been able to complete this objective. This may be a fault on my part rather than the part of the developer, as Nanuleu requires a little bit of strategizing and I don't think my strategy was really working. I was able to win the game as a whole, but doing so in a certain amount of time wasn't something I was able to do. I feel that to do so, I would have to change my build strategy.
I found myself using the protector trees to connect all of my points as they could take more than one hit after being destroyed. Roots can only take one hit and then they are destroyed. If you lose connection to an area of things you've already planted, you aren't able to build further and your trees that were already planted don't work until you reconnect it to the main life tree.
So I found that using the protector tree to connect everything and using roots sparingly was a better plan. The issue with this and the timed objective is that protector trees are much more expensive to build than the roots. Maybe if the player was able to upgrade the strength of their roots, this would be easier to accomplish.
As a whole, I was able to find myself getting engrossed in the game...at the easiest difficulty. I found myself actually getting into the game and able to manage my network of plants. I could keep an eye on the enemy as they were approaching and, considering I had a nice network of mineral and water trees feeding me resources, I could plant my defenses as I needed them. As I bumped up the difficulty, I found myself running into more issues.
Raising the difficulty of the game adds more enemy trees to spawn enemy meeps. I found myself unable to keep up with the rate that they were spawning and after a bit, they were able to overtake my trees and take over the map. Considering that you aren't able to start producing your own meeps until planting all the life trees, it's much harder to manage those invading meeps.
In the end, I feel that Nanuleu has a really good foundation but as your time with the game progresses, things start to fall apart. The game does look nice and the randomly generated maps do provide some replayability. The interface is also very easy to understand so there isn't confusion in how things work.
However, I did find myself getting frustrated with the higher difficulties and getting to build those life trees in a timely fashion to be able to defeat the enemy forces.
There may be hope for the game with me yet, though. Here in a couple of weeks, the developer is releasing a new update to the game and they will be releasing a version of Nanuleu on Steam. I have requested a copy of the game to review on Steam, so should that update address some of the issues I had and if the game on Steam is more than just a mobile port, I feel that this game can really shine.
SCORE BEFORE UPDATE: 6/10
UPDATE TO REVIEW
So this week, I was given access to an update to the game and access to their Steam version of the game as well. I'm pretty surprised with how much has changed. I'm going to mainly talk about the iOS update as I have had very little time with the Steam version of the game and what little I've seen of it, it's just a mobile port of the game.
There are quite a few changes made to the game. The first one that I immediately fell in love with was the fact that I can now plant something on any point on the map and the game automatically calculates the cost for planting that object and the cost of connecting it to the center tree. This makes for much faster gameplay and an all around smoother experience.
The next big change that I found welcome was a reworking of the difficulties. Apprentice now only requires 2 life trees to be planted before being able to plant War Trees, and the map is much smaller to work with. I found the difficulty to be extremely easy and a great way to show a beginner to the game how it works. Both Warrior and Sage difficulties require 4 life trees but the maps you play on are different. Both feel like good increases in difficulty and are a good bit of fun to play.
I think the biggest addition to the game are the new game modes. When I originally got the game, the only game mode it had was what this update calls First Contact. In this update, you get 2 new game modes called Invasion and Counterattack. Sadly, I was only able to unlock the Invasion game mode as this game is still pretty difficult and you unlock the other game modes by beating them at higher difficulties.
Invasion mode gives you a map that creates a hallway of sorts in the middle of the map that leads to a large section of the top map that is completely inhabited by the enemy. The game tells you to plant Protector trees on these green points on the map to open up the black ground on the hallway section so you can plant new defenses. You have access to the War Tree from the very beginning so the object of the game is to defend your main Life Tree and destroy all the invading trees on the other side of the hallway. I found this game mode to be quite difficult. I still haven't been able to beat it but it is a very cool game mode to be included. My only complaint with it is that it feels that you can be overwhelmed too quickly and if you get overwhelmed, it is game over.
After seeing this update and everything it brings, I feel that this game has proven to be quite the good little mobile game. The difficulty reworks actually feel fair and like a genuine challenge to complete rather than the game just overwhelming you before you have a chance to fight back. The new game modes bring replayability and a good deal of challenge. If you're looking for a new mobile game to keep you occupied while out and about, Nanuleu is definitely worth checking out.
Release Date: June 30, 2016
Developer: Selva Interactive
Price: $2.99 on the Apple app store
Game Provided by Developer