If you’re a fan of 50’s sci-fi films like Forbidden Planet, The Thing From Another World, The Day the Earth Stood Still and The Fly then Ace Teams latest title may just interest you. The Deadly Tower of Monsters is an action platformer that oozes charm as it pays homage to these classic b-movies. Framed as a VHS to DVD switch over the game is narrated by the films director, who provides amusing commentary on its bumpy development and points out a number of filming gaffs.
Our story begins as intrepid space adventurer Dick Starspeed’s space ship crash lands on a mysterious new world. The planet is in turmoil, an evil Emperor has moved in and imprisoned the local primitive civilization, of what appears to be men in monkey suits, forcing them into working for him. To save planet Gravoria Dick, along with the Emperors rebellious daughter Scarlet Nova, and his robotic co-pilot Robot, must ascend the new rulers fortress the Deadly Tower of Monsters. Incredibly cheesy but very well written, the game plays on all of the typical b-movie tropes. Over the top dialogue, mad scientists, and men in suits, it’s a perfect homage to 50’s sci-fi culture. The only real issue with the story is the length, lasting only 34 hours with little replayability value.
The game has the perfect setup too. The 50’s cult sci-fi movie is getting a fancy new DVD release, and the original director, Dan Smith, has been asked to provide a commentary track for the film. The humour this provides is clearly the games most redeeming feature. The commentary points out special effect failures, how he messed around film crew, and about the many health and safety issues that were ‘overlooked’, like throwing flaming logs at his actors. Even death scenes are explained as false takes that were filmed to confuse anyone who might leak the film. Through the snarky performance the voice actor provides you get the sense the director enjoyed making the film, but he is also quick to mock his crew for their faults. It’s fantastic to listen to and will have you giggling all the way through even after you arrive at the plot twist at the end of the game.
The object of the game is to climb the Deadly Tower of Monsters and thwart the emperor, and it really is that simple. The gameplay is very linear, just one long stretch to the top. There are occasional instances where you have to back track down to acquire new tools to pass obstacles, but for the most part you’ll just be climbing and wailing on enemies in a semi-gauntlet like fashion. The towers size is impressive and you get a nice sense of scale. The draw distance allows you to see almost right the base and you really appreciate it when you’re actively encouraged to throw yourself off the side. Doing so you can means you can obtain collectables and find hidden locations. There’s no threat to life or your overall progress either, you can use your jet-pack to survive falls and there’s a number of ways for you to teleport back up.
From a top down perspective view the game plays out like a twin stick shooter where you can utilise melee and ranged weaponry. You start off with just your baton and ray gun but you quickly acquire new tools lying around like axes, whips, tasers and flamethrowers. Each weapon has their own unique play styles and effects and can all be upgraded to give them even further depth. There’s a fun selection to play with but, you can only take two of each at a time so you can experiment to find the best setup that works for you. Characters for the most part play out identically but there are the one or two skills that are unique to each of them. They are again fun to play around with in combat but their really only useful for passing obstructions and finding secret areas. Dick can utilise land mines for destroying boulders, Robot has a device that can slow the speed of time and Scarlet has a quick run for crossing moving walkways.
Climbing the tower can give you a touch of vertigo and the overall construction is impossible leading to some interesting platforming setups. Unfortunately it can be rather niggly. Enemies can come at you from below the tower, get close to the edge and you can peek over to shoot down foes with your vertical gun. However locking on to edges can be fiddly and while your messing with that UFO’s and Pterodactyl’s can quickly catch up to your level. Due to the perspective you play at it can also be awkward to judge your jumps. In particular there is an irritating section in the later stages of the game that involves rotating satellites and moving platforms. Your ascent up the tower for the most part moves at a quick speed, so to suddenly be bought down to a snails pace for one or two areas can be highly frustrating. Checkpoints also tie in to this, they’re placed completely randomly so if you fall you can end up tediously replaying long sections. It’s not just the checkpoints though that are spaced out oddly. Upgrade stations, weapon storage and sleep chambers are also sporadically placed so you can go for long periods without seeing an upgrade station, but come across weapons storages every couple of minutes.
The 50’s b-movie theme runs throughout the game. The enemy’s designs are a particular highlight, looking like they’ve walked straight off the set of an old sci-fi film or show like Forbidden Planet or Doctor Who. Squidmen are clearly men in rubber suits, bats are suspended in the air by string and Dinosaurs have a plastic quality about them complete with stop frame animation. To help add to the vintage look there’s even a VHS filter setting where colours are drained and you get a worn film look. The voice acting equally adds to the atmosphere with cheesy dialogue delivered in an over the top and hammy fashion.
The Deadly Tower of Monsters is a short but charming experience. The gameplay is what lets the game down needing an extra dose of polish in several areas but it’s still decent enough to play. A creative style, a cheesy story and a stellar in game commentary performance make this a title that shouldn’t be missed for anyone with even a passing interest in classic sci-fi b-movies.
This review is based off a review code of The Deadly Tower of Monsters provided by Atlus.
This review was originally published on the site GamersFTW which unfortunately has now been taken down. It’s been published on my personal blog, DanielVaughanReviews, out of respect for the developers/publishers that were kind enough to give me review copy of their game.