A well-crafted shooter for a rainy afternoon.
Recently released shooter Tower 57 was funded on Kickstarter by over 1,800 backers. The game delights in telling you frequently, and it all adds up to a game that feels like a genuine labour of love from a passionate development studio.
Set in a dystopian city sort of stacked on itself, ruled by a harsh and oppressive individual whom you’ve been sent to kill, Tower 57 is a twin-stick pixel art shooter that pays homage to the Amiga era. This is an oddly happy dystopia, though, with pleasant-sounding elevator music, bright colours, and citizens who, frankly, don’t look to be doing too badly.
Tower 57 is a game that never takes itself too seriously. In a more straight-laced title, the 16-bit retro graphics may dampen the atmosphere, but here they add to the silly, self-referential charm. News boards around the world advertise implants with a free lobotomy if the procedure goes wrong, while the game pokes fun at DLC, threatening to revoke your season pass should you displease management.
Enemies, weapons, and characters all entertain. You pick a team of three at the start of the game, and continue on with them in a ‘switch and play’ manner that reminds me of Lego Star Wars. My party included someone who looked a bit like Deadpool out of the X-Men film no one really likes because it ruined Deadpool; a ’90s cop with a hook as a special weapon; and, of course, Abraham Lincoln dressed in stars and stripes, with a flaming eagle as his special. Because why not.
As this motley team of three, I battled my way through various hand-crafted levels. Amidst the trend for procedural generation, opting for a more controlled approach has allowed the developers to create maps you’re able to first learn through failure, before repeating all guns blazing, feeling just like a ’90s cop should: blasting enemies before they even realise they’ve spawned.
The game’s systems are wrapped neatly into the world. There’s a traditional health bar signifying how much damage you’ve taken. But should you get hit by certain enemies, you may find yourself suddenly without legs – a most terrible affliction in the heat of battle. So you soldier on, until you see a machine with the word ‘LEGS’ glowing above it. And here you can not only acquire new legs, but also upgrade your existing, boring body parts, because why have regular arms when they can be made of steel?
There’s nothing too out of the ordinary about Tower 57, but it’s enjoyable – with periods of downtime in which NPCs deliver bits of the story, melding into moments when the story doesn’t matter because you’ve found a mortar made from a broken barrel. This is a nice game, a pleasant diversion, and made a perfect companion for when my internet decided not to work for the day.