If you were to name genre that was most ripe for unique interpretations on its format, you would be wise to mention only one: the tower defense genre. It is quite simply one of the most versatile canvasses that a developer can work with, and there exists many a game to prove this point, all with hugely varying styles based around the single concept of tower defense. Kingdom Rush is a prime example of a sublime tower defense series, as is Bloons Tower Defense, Plants Vs. Zombies, and Defense Grid. I'd like to add another game of the genre to this glowing list however; Long Way is a fantastic wild west-themed tower defense game, and it is entirely free to play in your browser.
It is quite rare that a game should be truly free-to-play and truly incredible, but Long Way is game that meets and exceeds these two criteria. Long Way is tower defense through and through; its format is quintessentially of the genre that it occupies. The aim of the game is to defend your cattle from intruders that make their way across the screen using the pre-existing paths and routes that lead to your cattle. It wouldn't be tower defense if you weren't placing sentries on the perimeter of this path, so this is exactly what you do, though the sentries are cowboys in this case. You place them in your desired location along the path and they will attack the waves of enemies as they proceed along it.
Resources are of course a limiting factor in Long Way that will force you to be economical with your cowboy placement and strategic in the upgrading of each of your cowboys as you unlock them. There are multiple ways to upgrade but they can be split into two spheres: in-game and between-game upgrades. The former involves your cowboys acquiring enough points from killing enemies to upgrade one of their three attributes at a time and the latter involves hiring new cowboys, purchasing items that benefit the stats of your team as a whole (items like hats, pistols, and belts), and also hiring more bulls if you happen to be unlucky (or poor) enough lose too many during a round.
What you should gather from the explanation of the game so far is that all of its attributes are typical of the tower defense genre, but what I'm here to tell you is that Long Way is more than the sum of its parts. This is partly because of the game's design, which is colourful and highly polished with no rough edges left to diminish your opinion of the game's developers, Blue Wolf Games. However, most of the game's appeal comes in its simplicity, a property that is often overlooked by developers in favour of including an unmanageable quantity of variables as I find the case to be in even the critically-acclaimed titles such as the Pokemont Tower Defense series which you can check out at http://www.pokemontowerdefense.net.
By simplicity I don't mean ease of completion however: I mean an approach to tower defense that is accessible, uncomplicated, yet remarkably challenging and hugely addictive as a result. There are six cowboy types to unlock for example, each with their own abilities that can be upgraded in-game such as stunning enemies, increasing chances of headshots, and even poisoning enemies or being able to hit invisible ones. That's right, there are also multiple kinds of enemy ranging from standard ones that move at a moderate pace to ones that sprint quickly, ones that become temporarily invisible after being shot for the first time, and big boss enemies that are very, very hard to kill.
These factors are given more weight by the game's between-level progression where you visit towns, complete mini-tasks, hire new cowboys, and discover the area world around you via a fantastically-illustrated mini-map. There could be a few improvements of course, the main one being the need for the ability to place cowboys of the same type in quick succession instead of having to go back and click on the cowboy you want in the menu every single time. There could be more items to bring increased variation to proceedings as is the case in Berserk Ball 2, but these are such minor issues when you take the greatness of the game into consideration; they can easily be forgiven. Long Way is a fantastic tower defense game that is almost as niche in its content as fellow defense game Mushroom Madness 3. It smashes much of its competition, so give it a chance - it may just surprise you.
Bebop Rating: 8.5/10