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TowerFall Ascension Review


Hands up anyone who remembers the Ouya Android console? The tiny console that started on Kickstarter, raising over $8.5 million in the process? Anyone? Anyone? If you do not remember then you are the lucky one.

As an owner at one time of said console, I unfortunately do remember. It was by no means a bad idea in concept, but it struggled to get much support from developers due to its pre-requisite of timed-exclusivity on new games, something which put a lot of developers off. One such game that took up this offer though was TowerFall releasing on the console in June 2013, arguably becoming the Ouya’s killer app. Over three years later the game finally makes its way onto Xbox One as TowerFall Ascension, with single-player capabilities of sorts. But is it a case of being too late?

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TowerFall Ascension is a 2D arena brawler where each combatant uses a bow and arrow to dispose of the enemy. It’s a very easy game to get the hang of the basics, but there is enough depth that makes it a difficult game to master. You can stomp on people’s heads as another way to kill them, and barging into opponents allows you to steal arrows from them. Arrows are a precious commodity in this game as you only have three per round and will either need to steal from others or pick up those that are left scattered on the floor. This resource management will likely factor into the outcome of many a local multiplayer game and adds further tactical gameplay. If anyone enjoys Super Smash Bros. then this will be right up your street as well.

Unfortunately though, something that needs mentioning is that TowerFall Ascension also released the Dark World DLC on the same day as release of the base game, which comes in at an additional £7.99, alongside the base game price of £11.99. It’s content that’s been available on other consoles since the middle of last year so it would have been nice to see it bundled together as one, but alas no.

On to what this game does include though from the very off and its main focus is on local multiplayer. When the game first released on Ouya there was no single player option, and its continual focus on the multiplayer is apparent by offering you this option first in the main menu. Sadly though, three years later there is still no online multiplayer, so you will need real friends to enjoy the true TowerFall experience.

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Multiplayer mode has all the standard game types including Last Man Standing and Team Deathmatch. Variants can be added to keep things interesting, but TowerFall is at its most fun and tactical in its purest form. It also includes instant replays after each round so any final kill you want to boast about can be relived. It’s a neat little feature that certainly adds fuel to any local multiplayer fires that may happen whilst playing this game.

A single player mode has been added of sorts, but it is referred to as Co-op mode, indicating it should not be attempted on your own. I can confirm this is the case as it becomes very difficult trying to beat each map when playing solo. The premise is very simple; play through each map, defeating wave after wave of enemies until the level is complete. The enemies come in all sorts of shapes and sizes allowing good variation between how best to defeat each type, and the later waves mix these enemies up and increase numbers constantly, keeping you on your toes throughout. Again though, this is highly recommended with a couch buddy as the number of enemies does not appear to change depending on how many players there are. Why you are fighting them though is unknown as there is no explanation or story present.

A third mode is present in this build of TowerFall and that is the Trials mode. This tasks you with destroying a certain number of static training dummies in the fastest time possible. And it means fastest time possible with most diamond completion times running at sub four seconds. This is TowerFalls weakest mode as it is pure single player and TowerFall on your own simply isn’t much fun.

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All of these game modes take place on the same maps as well. More can be unlocked by progressing in the game or by completing some very obscure challenges. These challenges would have been quite fun to figure out in the days before the internet and is in keeping with the old school theme of the game. Sadly though, any Easter eggs like this can be found with a quick search on the internet.

The game keeps the retro theme going in its presentation as well, by using the 4:3 aspect ratio. The border isn’t much to look at around the edge however. Other games that are 4:3 (eg. Rare Replay) have used artwork for the game as the border and it would have been good to see TowerFall do the same i.e. on the splash screen. This ratio does match up well with the pixel-style graphics and coupled with the sound effects that feel like they have been plucked straight from the early ’90s, this game fits the aesthetic really well.

Achievements also aren’t for the faint hearted. The one that sticks out at first glance is for playing 5000 rounds of multiplayer. But it’s when you look again and see achievements related to diamond times and amount of red skulls earned and knowing what these take, you may think twice about it. Be prepared to grind this one out for a completion.

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TowerFall is certainly a very good local multiplayer game that a group of friends can enjoy night after night, honing their skills with the virtual bow and arrow. So it’s difficult then to say the rest of the game, and the price, lets it down. But it does. All of the game modes are played out on the same maps and while each has a different colour palette applied, there is precious little other variation. And this variation applies to the game modes as well in that there just isn’t enough.

Local gaming is a big deal in the indie scene, but TowerFall won’t be replacing you and your friend’s favourite any time soon.

Richard Dobson
Richard Dobson
Avid gamer since the days of Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Grew up with the PS1 and PS2 but changed allegiances in 2007 with the release of Halo 3.
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