Nanuleu: Use trees as defense

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  • Graphics and Sound – 4/5

  • Strategy - 2/5

  • Fun - 1/5

  • Re-playability - 3/5

  • Overall - 3/5

$2.99 - Developer Website - v1.12

by Jasmine Greene

Nanuleu by Selva Interactive is a minimalist strategy game with an interesting concept coupled with colorful art and sound design aspects that will amuse the sight and experience.

With that said, Nanuleu’s minimalist theme goes with games that are classified as simple rather than like other strategy games that involve deep experiences. It is set to be so, but I see some fault in it. Playing the game, you can see what the developers were trying to do but it breeds a feeling that the game seems to be unfinished.

Developer Gameplay video

Nevertheless, there is one aspect where Nanuleu shines. It is in its art and sound design. Despite using basic shapes and a set color palette, Nanuleu manages to look very impressive. The colors included in this game are bright and vibrant with each tree signified by a different color and shape. 

The developers added some subtle touches to make the game come alive. For example, the color of your map changes as you expand and claim more land. Also there's a brief animation whenever you place a new path or tree on the map. This attention to detail really increases the quaint charm of the game. The graphics in addition to the atmospheric background music and basic sound effects are the highlights of Nanuleu.

There are three different modes: Apprentice, Warrior and Sage. These represent the difficulty levels of the game. Only the first two options are available to you in the beginning of the game. Once you beat Warrior you can unlock Sage mode.

The basic gameplay is straightforward—use your resources to build paths and capture resources. Once you capture all the white life trees, you’ll unlock an offensive war tree to defeat the enemies. Like other strategy games, you must balance your use of resources and expansion while the enemies attack your base. This means ensuring the proper placement of your protector and war trees to keep your life trees and towers safe. The longer you play the more waves of enemies you’ll need to repel. Unlike other tower games, the map for Nanuleu is random each time you start a new game, so you never get the same experience twice. Unfortunately, this can be a double-edged sword.

Since there's no upgrades or progression system in Nanuleu, advancing its levels often seem more due to luck than skill-based gameplay. Sometimes your resources will be close together and other times they will be very spread apart. This is especially frustrating with the life trees. Not only do you need them to unlock your war tree, you also need them to plant your resource and protector trees. If your life trees are too far apart from your starting area, enemies will easily overwhelm your forces. Yes, the game does tell you where the next enemies will appear and there's a timer to indicate when the enemy tree produces new units, but often there's nothing you can do besides wait. While this aspect of the game isn't unique to Nanuleu, its simplicity makes it all the more noticeable and frustrating.

What compounds this frustration is the fact that the game is real-time. If it were a turn-based game, it might not be as bad, as you can take in the level and plan accordingly. Yes, you have unlimited time when you start a game to plan out your path, but you have no idea where the enemies will appear. That means you'll end up building in one direction and then have to build in another to keep the enemies at bay. A simple indication of where the first enemies will pop up could go a long way in improving the overall gameplay. This isn't a new mechanic either. Other tower defense games like Kingdom Rush show you exactly where the first enemy waves will come from, so you can then plan accordingly.

Speaking of enemies, there are several different types that also gives different attack mechanisms. If they encroach on your territory you will lose the land and any trees placed on these tiles. If you want to reclaim these areas you'll need to build on the land again, which would sometimes lead to wasted resources. The problem with these enemies is that their difficulty seems randomized. I noticed upon playing that sometimes one defender tree could hold off two enemies. Another time, two defender trees were taken down by only one! I believe this randomization has no place in a strategy game. If I don’t have a solid grasp on the strength of the enemies and how to defeat them, the entire strategy aspect of the game falls apart.

You don’t really start noticing these issues until you play Warrior mode. All of these same issues are in Apprentice mode, but because it’s easier you can actually beat it. Warrior mode’s difficulty curve shoots up and feels unforgiving. I’ve tried numerous strategies: build out quickly to get resources as fast as possible so I can build my war trees; play defensively and surround my main buildings with defense trees, get all the life trees first so I can quickly build war trees, expand my land to where the enemies will most likely appear (they still pop up even if I claim the land) and so on.

Overall, Nanuleu sets out to be a simple strategy game, but in the end it gives you the feeling of having an unfinished experience. As much as I like the style and the idea, I’m not very much fond of it. I believe choosing the game would greatly depend on ones taste in strategy and visual stimulation.

  • Vibrant and bright colors

  • Soothing atmospheric music

  • Easy to understand gameplay mechanics


  • Randomized enemy difficulty

  • Randomized maps

  • Punishing difficulty curve

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