Lich Defense, the latest title to hit the App Store from veteran success Jelly Oasis, expands upon the dev team’s admirable forays into the tower defense genre. Earlier this year, Jelly Oasis made a splash with the visually impressive Elf Defense. The new title, Lich Defense, offers an entirely new theme and amps up the game play through superior pacing and game mechanics.

In addition, Lich Defense offers tower defense fans some slick new toys: an RPG style in-menu upgrade system for not only the unlocked towers but for the tower itself. The Lich serves both as the castle to be defended from incoming waves and as an additional defense system, thanks to its special abilities (obtained as players progress through the game). As one might guess from the game's title, the player doesn't take on the role of knight in shining armor. "Lich" usually refers to some variety of undead, and that's the case here. With this skeleton warrior/king taking on the role of the "tower" while boasting his own devastating offensive powers, it feels more as if the player's character is the Lich himself, orchestrating his own defensive measures.

And with the frantic pace that Lich Defense ultimately sets, conducting an orchestra will at times feel like a good comparison. The game's mechanics are powerfully simple, allowing defensive towers to be placed, upgraded, and removed with two taps per action. This makes it easy to concentrate on strategy rather than an awkward control set up: the controls are simple enough that players can concentrate on next-wave info and form their strategies for tower type and location in microseconds. This ease of use doesn't entirely translate to the between-stage menus-upgrades and abilities are sometimes buried under a few layers of options. We'd like to see this streamlined, but as the extra seconds don’t cost XP during those times we can let it slide.

The game's mechanics and overall appearance are exceptional. While the Lich-oriented theme is necessarily dark, Lich Defense isn't dreary or colorless. Nor do the undead scoff at the idea of fashion, apparently: one can customize the Lich with different robes. Speaking of customizing the Lich-that's where the RPG twist comes in. Players will choose which special abilities the Lich arms himself with (up to three), which of those abilities to max, and which of his stats to build up. This gives the game an entirely fresh outlook on strategy, because how each individual plays will depend on how he or she has outfitted the Lich.

Jelly Oasis has come through with quality animations and crisp, clear graphics up to their usual high standards. We'd like to see a bit more action from the Lich himself-in terms of cosmetic animations and maybe some sound effects aside from attacks-but it's a solid presentation. The "Meadow," "Frozen," and "Lava" maps which house the stages provide some visual variety and the stage maps themselves evolve both aesthetically and in terms of challenge.

Lich Defense is available now in the iTunes App Store, a good find for $1.99, and great addition to any tower-defense genre lover’s library!

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