The Deadly Tower of Monsters is homage to B-movies. In fact, the game is literally a B-movie. The gist is players are watching, not playing, this movie with the former director who’s commentating over it. The film is an amalgamation of the genre splicing in giant insects, dinosaurs, talking apes, and more. The plot of the movie is to stop an evil lord from stealing alien gold, but its narrative isn’t the point. Like Bastion, the key here is with the commentary. While lacking a thorough punch, it’s entertaining, clever, and even funny at times. There’s one other detail to the script, but saying anything else would ruin the surprise. Let’s just say it was a great idea that was abrupt and not fully realized.
Gameplay is also a hybrid of genres. At it’s most basic; one could call it a top down action game with RPG elements. Players can choose between Dick, Scarlet, or Robot. Save for special powers, they ultimately play the same. For example, Dick can plant landmines to destroy boulders, which create new paths. Swapping between them can be done at stations found at checkpoints along with other terminals that upgrade gear, enhance hero stats, and swap equipment. Their locations are sporadic between the checkpoints so tracking down the right station can be annoying. It would have been nice if these mechanics were condensed into one machine, but hey, putting that gripe aside, let’s get into how each terminal works.
Players can carry two melee and two ranged weapons at a time. Gear isn’t based on attack, but ability. For example, some players may feel at home with a whip that has a wider range as opposed to a short-ranged shiv. Upgrading weapons cost both gold and cogs. Silver and gold cogs are scattered throughout the tower while blue cogs can be found off enemies along with gold. Upgrading character stats is based on missions, which is a fancy word for trophies. Earning trophies unlocks a new tier in the leveling system, which can upgrade everything from normal stats like melee damage as well as grant new abilities such as health regeneration. It needlessly complicates an otherwise simplistic skill tree.
Thankfully the game nails its aesthetics. The range of creatures in the game is astounding as is their care to detail. Strings can be seen holding up bats. Some enemies look like they’re literally just wearing costumes. The dinosaurs move with stop-motion animation. There’s a grain VHS filter on the game. The list goes on and on. It’s a genuine love letter to B-movies. While great, it doesn’t translate into a stellar gaming experience with everything mentioned above along with a few other nitpicks including the game’s length. TDTOM is only four hours long, which stretches out to maybe six if one is trying to collect everything. Without any other modes, or even a new game plus, it feels hollow. Like this writer mentioned with the story, it just sort of ends.
The Deadly Tower of Monsters is…something else. On one hand it accomplishments what it sets it to do in emulating B-movies. However, the clunky mechanics, uneven writing, and a lack of content stop it from being all it could be. It’s a fantastic idea that lacks a fully realized game behind it. It’s fun and the cheap price does merit it a look. However, like most B-movies, it’s not going to appeal to everyone.
Score: 3/5 Stars
Special Notes: The publisher provided a review copy. This article was originally published on January 19, 2016 via my Examiner account before the website shut down. Check out the supporting video review on the accompanying YouTube Channel, ReActionExaminer.