Paper Wars: Canon Fodder (Review) iPhone

Paper Wars: Canon Fodder (Review) iPhone

PWCF’s main claim to being “unique” (a word repeatedly used) is depicting various elements like enemies and weapons as crudely drawn icons on little scraps of paper. It also strips gameplay down to the essentials, as all action takes place on a single-screen battlefield with one cannon in the lower left corner as only your weapon. Waves of enemy soldiers march from right to left and your mission is to blow up a specified number of them without missing more than the maximum allowed. Gradually power-ups, obstacles and other complications work their way in during the 80-plus missions, and there’s the inevitable range of achievements to earn for online bragging rights.

iFun4all opts to draw their own critical first blood with their tower shooter, following their initial boast by then proclaiming PWCF the “worst game ever.” Self-deprecation and schizophrenia aren’t new or particularly clever, but every article I’ve seen about PWCF mentions the taunt. It’s inevitable that will be followed by “no, it’s not the worst game ever because …,” thus building PWCF up from the muck instead of knocking it down from a throne.

It’s a smart move since PWCF isn’t even an Angry Birds bruiser. It’s a briefly amusing trinket that gets repetitive very fast and has one serious apparent bug that needs fixing as quickly as possible. It isn’t a budget-buster at 99 cents, especially since the PlayStation Portable version sells for $5, but it’s iffy if you’ll get enough novelty amusement to make the investment (of your time and money) unless you’re a completist type of tower defense fanatic.

The only tweak in the options menu is blood or no blood, meaning you’re stuck with the cheesy short-loop military fanfare. There’s three extended campaigns and three survival modes to play or unlock, and the promo copy states there are 15 different enemy types and 24 power-ups. Those last stats are where PWCF and a lot of other games have been going wrong for a long time. All those Doom imitators quickly became dull until some programmers started realizing things like stealth could also be cool. In other words, a standout game needs to be about more than a given enemy being faster you’re being able to trigger larger explosions to blow him up as you progress. PWCF falls far short in this regard.

Even if you go for the concept, there’s a major flaw that may test your patience beyond the point of exasperation. You fire your cannon by touching the screen to set your crosshairs and holding your finger down to increase firepower – in theory. In reality the “charge” meter frequently gets stuck before reaching the minimum necessary for launch, forcing you to lift your finger (and presumably retarget if there’s still time) and try again. It’s a virtual certainty this will force you to replay many waves through no fault of your own once you get past the first five or so.

One thought I had is this is essentially a hyper-complex version of an old Atari 2600 game called Stampede (which also makes me wonder if programmer David Crane has ever been considered the founding father of tower defense games the same way his Pitfall is credited as the forerunner for platformers.). For those not familiar with the widely praised, if not classic, title that was one of the earliest released by Activision, the game involves moving a cowboy on a horse up and down the left edge of the screen while “tossing” a lasso at cattle trying to scuttle past him. It takes up a mere 2K of memory (less than 1/10,000th what PWCF requires), the same used in Atari’s earliest cartridges, few of which are memorable or interesting beyond the pack-in Combat.

PWCF is obviously massively more evolved than Stampede, in the same way a new Kia Rio is vastly more mechanically advanced than a BMW 2002. But I’d take a reasonably reliable model of the latter instead of the Kia any day, as would probably most people who remember the admittedly unattractive little car from the ’70s. Why? It’s arguably the first plain-looking sports sedan (an honor that would mystify today’s youth given the “high-performance” tii model’s 130hp and 115mph top speed), which begat later innocent-looking gems like the Nissan Sentra SE-R and Subaru Impreza WRX. Stampede is hardly a monster game in sheep’s clothing, but players not quickly frustrated by the seemingly simplistic gameplay and quickly ramped-up difficulty discover there’s a lot under the hood not initially apparent to the eye. I played a few games of Stampede after testing PWCF for comparative purposes and if I were looking for brief time killer at work, etc. I’d go for the older title.

(There’s numerous browser emulations, including, and those wanting a hint to success should know only a certain number of objects can be on the screen at any given time.)

It’s probable PWCF and most other low-rated modern games have far more subtitles players can discover to improve their strategy than the likes of Stampede. But, fair or not, the market is so much more vast few want to make the effort when finding something else more fun is far easier (it’s also easy to dismiss a 99-cent title, whereas one feels more compelled to “discover” playability in a $30-$40 game).

So, no, PWCF isn’t the “worst game ever,”.

Mark Sabbatini
Paper Wars: Canon Fodder by iFun4All
Category: Tower Defense
Requires: iOS 4.2 or later
Language: English
Rated: 9+ for Frequent/Intense Cartoon or Fantasy Violence
Size: 21.6 MB

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