Well, wouldn’t you know it — no sooner do you master time travel than a mass of aliens, displaced World War I soldiers, and dinosaurs flood in to take over your time machine, or dismantle it at the very least. What’s a mad scientist to do? The obvious decision is to pluck a Ghostbusters wannabe and a Gandalf cosplayer from the time stream to defend it! Spanning several eras and chock-full of spells, nuclear bombs, and splattering guts, Ipanema Games’ newest Castle Defense title certainly earns the name Time for Epic (Out Now, $0.99 Release Sale)!

As noted in our hands-on preview a few months back, Time for Epic reserves one gesture for each hero under the player’s control: swiping over enemies makes the wizard summon an energy ball that slashes through foes in whatever path the player commands, and tapping on individuals makes Ghostbusters dude zap them. Each attack is effective against different enemies in a way that isn’t always predictable, forcing some experimentation on the player’s part as new ones are introduced. Even the most efficient use of gestures won’t prevent the time machine from getting swarmed, so drag-and-drop special attacks with different area effects have to be summoned on the field at just the right moments to save the day, or at least buy precious reaction time.

These specials have to be unlocked in the first place with experience points and in-game cash collected during battles; enriching the player’s dilemma is the fact that damage to the time machine has to be reversed by drawing from the same resources between battles. Surviving the game’s 20-level campaign is therefore a well-devised challenge, but the presence of IAPs that can be traded for more in-game cash raises the usual questions of balance. It’s definitely impossible to afford all special attacks, upgrades, and automated fort defenses in a single playthrough, but on balance, I definitely came away with the impression that a full collection beyond the bedrock freeze spell isn’t all that necessary. Moreover, the possibility of different upgrade paths over successive playthroughs gives Time for Epic a nice measure of replay value.

Time for Epic’s weakness lies instead in the static duo that the player controls. The time machine visits a number of eras as the player holds out over its campaign, and that should come with a promise of new hero units that goes unfulfilled here. One could imagine swapping heroes in and out, each making use of a gesture control untapped at present, like the tilt, the multitouch, or the touch-and-hold. IAP-wary players will be alarmed by the occasional offer to purchase Endless mode early, but this opens up for free as a reward for completing the story campaign after all. Some niggling ad support butts in on the main menu screen, but thankfully this isn’t present during battles.

Speaking of story, my second complaint with Time for Epic is that it uses text boxes during battles to convey its semblance of plot. Not only do enemy waves come so thick and fast that players will have no zero inclination to read these, but they can interfere with swipe attacks started at screen bottom; the player has to be extra conscious of where his or her gestures start lest incoming enemies gain the upper hand unfairly. Much as I love kooky plots in a Castle Defense title, I would welcome an option to turn these off, and I’d bet my in-game gold that I won’t be alone on this. The mad scientist’s pithy quips before each level begins, on the other hand, are well delivered.

Besides that little text box quirk, Time for Epic’s interface handles very smoothly — no surprise here seeing as cocos2d is involved. The game’s hand-drawn presentation lends it a distinct visual flair, and while it’s too bad that the number of music tracks used can be counted on two or three fingers, what’s there is very catchy. An expert player can probably slice and tap his or her way through the campaign in one and a half to two hours, but the difficulty of the latter half should translate into two to three hours for a first playthrough on average.

iFanzine Verdict: A quirky and solidly built gesture-controlled Castle Defense game, Time for Epic stops just short of its full potential by limiting the player’s available units to a mere two. It’s an enjoyable genre morsel as things stand, but additional heroes, more special attacks, and a campaign extension in updates could definitely take it to the next level.