X-Morph: Defense is an atypical alien invasion video game for a number of reasons, the primary factor being that it flips the script for the usual narrative and places the player not in control of the humans defending Earth, but as the resource hungry aliens. This immediately gives the game a special B-movie feel as the player's goal is to see the widespread and glorious destruction for your semi-mechanical alien race. There are more unique elements to X-Morph than just the playable characters because even though the title bears the word "Defense" there's a lot more action in X-Morph than the casual gamer might expect.
Developed and published by EXOR Studios, X-Morph originally released in 2017 on PC, Xbox One, and PS4. Now the game has been ported to the Nintendo Switch. The simple structure of X-Morph's wave-based missions on various world maps should make the Switch a perfect home but this isn't the case. On a gameplay level X-Morph is just as much fun and ridiculous as it was on other consoles but the Switch port is far from being the definitive version of the game.
X-Morph: Defense's gameplay can be described as the peanut butter cup of gaming. It takes two genres that don't necessarily seem like they'll meld and creates something fantastic. As the alien invaders. players are taken all across the globe, charged with protecting an alien core that rips the Earth of its natural resources. To do this players are put in charge of a spaceship that controls like any standard twin-stick shooter. Where X-Morph gets creative is that in each wave of the invasion, players can construct towers across the map like a tower defense game. These towers help defend the alien core but also obstruct the enemy's path. In essence, this simple mix of genres eliminates the problems of each's original form on their own. The shooting alleviates the potential boredom and patience of a tower defense scenario, while the strategic placement of towers makes X-Morph into something other than mindless destruction porn.
This isn't to say that X-Morph is a very deep experience. There's not a complicated strategy experience or shooter on display but what's here it is a very, very fun. Throughout the 10 hours that it'll take to get through the game's campaign they will be a comical amount of human troops being mercilessly slaughtered accompanied by cheesy B movie dialogue. The one-dimensional human General, the main antagonist of the game, will frequently discuss civilian casualties as gigantic apartment buildings are destroyed by his evil larger human piloted mechs. It's all intentionally over-the-top and X-Morph: Defense and totally works.
X-Morph: Defense will look like madness to any backseat gamer but it can't be played without some level of forethought. If towers aren't placed at the specific locations to create choke points and stem the tide of human troops, players will fail. Similarly, gamers can't just "spray and pray" with the alien ship. They must actual think before shooting with their (admittedly) unlimited ammo. This is especially true in the final wave of every story mission where a boss with specific weak points and special abilities, usually a large mecha, attempts to stop the aliens once and for all.
It seems like an impossible and contradictory task but X-Morph: Defense pulls it off. The game is just challenging enough to not become a slog as the aliens travel across the globe and terraform it into oblivion. Yet it's also simple enough that X-Morph is well-suited to pick and play sessions. Each story mission (which can be replayed for high scores) takes about 30 minutes to complete. There' also an endless survival mode to experience which is exactly as it sounds.
Unfortunately the casual nature to which X-Morph can be approached is the only element that makes the Switch version favorable to any other version of the game. The Switch port plays perfectly well, even if the visuals aren't as crisps as its counterparts. X-Morph: Defense is coming to Switch nearly two years after it first launched however, and Switch users aren't getting much extra for the delay.
X-Morph: Defense is not a full-priced game, having no retail release whatsoever, and it's priced reasonably except for the DLC - which adds new maps and enemy types - being sold separately. A complete edition with all the DLC can be purchased at a discount but it feels like a missed opportunity for the complete edition to not just be the standard Switch edition.
Slightly more problematic are the controls. This isn't unique to the Switch version of X-Morph as PlayStation 4 and Xbox One had similar problems. Still, X-Morph: Defense doesn't control so smoothly on consoles. It's finnicky when placing towers or aiming the guns. It's certainly manageable but noticeable enough to be aggravating. The controls can be finessed eventually but it's obvious that X-Morph was designed to work on PC first with just a mouse.
Regardless of these problems X-Morph: Defense is still a game that's more fun than it probably has a right to be and worth the investment for those even slightly interested in either genre. The Switch isn't the superior version of the game but if no other platform is available, gamers won't suffer too much by on Switch besides some minor control annoyances.
X-Morph: Defense is available now for Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PS4 and PC for $19.99. Screen Rant was provided a Switch copy for review.