Defense games were the original "runners." People were sick of them after the first hundred or so clones hit the market, but for some of us, it's hard to really get enough of them.It's nice that Mana Defense mixes things up a bit, but you may find yourself getting bored after a few hours or so.
Remember that carnival game at children's arcades where a robot or creature is slowly advancing towards you, trying to nefariously steal an object and take it back to base? That's basically Mana Defense, which offers a slight twist on the typical genre conventions. The general gist is that enemies will slowly advance towards the bottom of the screen, grab a crystal, and run off with it -- so you have to blast them into oblivion to prevent that from happening.
With your (male or female) wizard powers and the ability to move from left to right, it's up to you to put a stop to it -- so in that regard, it's an action game, of sorts, with defense elements. At the start you'll have access to a general fireball attack, a slow inducing frost ability, and a giant bomb-like detonator spell. The controls are perfect, and I had no trouble getting my wizard to do anything I needed it to.
Strictly in terms of the UI, Mana Defense is extremely rough around the edges -- as in, it looks like it was done in Microsoft Paint. Once you get into the game though, the visual style starts to shine. I like to think of it as a take on Borderlands, with bright pastels lining enemy models and a very similar fantasy/outlands feel. Although the enemy designs may not look like much, they look great in action. All six worlds also offer up a decent amount of variety in terms of design, which helps keep things fresh.
As a whole it's also really challenging, but it doesn't feel so unfair as to steer you towards IAPs. You'll have to pretty much always be at the top of your game though, and take a pro-active approach with moving and blasting. Throughout the game's 30 levels you'll have a chance to hone your skills and upgrade your wizard, with abilities ranging from slows to larger AOE attacks.
Mana Defense is a great proof of concept. With a ton of polish, more content, and a bit more personality, a full blown sequel could be one of the best defense games on the market. If you're a defense fan who can't get enough however, Mana Defense is well worth checking out.