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Rise of the Martian Bear Review

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On 02/08/2012 at 09:19 PM by Jason Ross

What has a bear, a beard, two-legged mechs, and flies? Iron Brigade: Rise of the Martian Bear.

Fans of the original will want this, and those who had a mediocre experience due to a lack of variety will want to consider Rise of the Martian Bear, as well.

Last year, I praised and criticized Double Fine's Trenched before it received a new name. My verdict? It played and worked well, but didn't offer enough variety and versatility to last as long as a proper tower defense game should. Fortunately, Rise of the Martian Bear provides a lot of content, weapons, and towers that resolve many of the issues the original Iron Brigade faced.

Rise of the Martian Bear takes place where Iron Brigade ends. Having saved the world from Vlad, the evil broadcast-touting super-genius with souped-up mechs called “Trenches,” the Woodruff and the Iron Brigade discovers Vlad transmitted his mind into his pet bear, lovingly named Boris. Vlad, as Boris, and the deathly broadcast are traced back to the planet Mars, and so the first mission of Rise of the Martian Bear has players defending the U.S.S. McKinley from monovisions right before it blasts into space. Subsequent stages occur on the red-colored Martian terrain, with oddly shaped Martian flora and even hints of Martian settlements interspersed. The Martian landscape contrasts earlier Iron Brigade stages, providing a little more whimsical approach to stage design, and is ultimately used in one final, brief boss fight.

As I said before, Iron Brigade was originally lacking in variety. With just a handful enemies, weapons, and emplacement types, upgrade paths through the game were on the dull side. Where Iron Brigade failed before, Rise of the Martian Bear succeeds. Three new enemy types are introduced. Eighty pieces of equipment have been added to the game, almost all of which is suitable for the end-game. Best yet, the different unlockable towers have a much greater pool of variety, from piercing laser shots to a mine-setter that lays out exploding barrels, to a machine gun that cuts off scrap from enemies to use as in-game currency. The added variety to the towers is refreshing, considering before the upgrade, there was just one end-game type of machine gun, one end-game type of mine-layer, etc.

It's worth noting that Rise of the Martian Bear adds two survival stages to the one present before. Both are taken from its new stages. Survival mode was something Trenched initially lacked, and after attempting both of the new stages, I can say the mode provides some much needed longevity and challenge.

Not every issue Iron Brigade faced is resolved in Martian Bear. Character conversations and storyline still feel very uninspired. Take a villain who's moved his mind into the head of a bear, and the game still has the same rote tone it did before. Vlad still introduces each new enemy with a pun that typically is related to genitals, and that's about all he does. Woodruff still says very generic things, like “Watch out for that sniper!” without much color at all. The small handful of puns get old quickly, partially because there's so few, partially because they happen at the same place in each stage, and partially because they're all practically the same. Iron Brigade also still lacks a bit of Trench variety. Each of the main Trench chassis has received health upgrades, but no new chassis are introduced, which means that those who want to load-out their trenches in a different way from what was previously available will not receive the option. And last but not least, the multiplayer in the non-survival mode still seems a little unbalanced against the tower-placing chassis, though it's true that in survival mode, these same Trenches are vastly more useful.

Rise of the Martian Bear is a mighty nice piece of DLC, delivering more of the content provided in Iron Brigade in better packaging. While it doesn't solve each and every issue Iron Brigade has, it brings robust tower and weapon customization, as well as a Martian world in which to battle. For $5 more, with all the additional content, it's a must-buy for fans of Iron Brigade.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:

All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.

These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.

This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.

Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.

Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.

A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.



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