ACE Team is one of those indie devs whose next project you never really see coming. After first-person brawler Zeno Clash, the Santiago-based team has done the strange pinball/tower defense hybrid Rock of Ages and the surreal, Chilean mythology inspired action/RPG game Abyss Odyssey. Their next title, The Deadly Tower of Monsters, might be their most “mainstream” yet… but even that’s a bit of a stretch.
From the game’s promo art, it’s easy to see the inspiration for Deadly Tower of Monsters: schlocky Hollywood sci-fi B-movies of the 50s and 60s. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time a game has used retro-cinematic imagery to effect. And it certainly wouldn’t be the first game where you’re supposed to be playing through a movie, as you are here. But it is the first game where the movie you’re playing is being commented on by the fictional “director” in a DVD-style commentary track as you play.
The core plot of the game centers around the spacefaring adventures of handsome space hero Dick Starspeed, interstellar bombshell Scarlet Nova, and their robot companion Robot as they are marooned on the planet Gravoria. Gravoria is filled with all manner of strange creatures, most of which know only violence. In order to escape from these deadly environments, they’re going to have to fight their way to the top of… The Deadly Tower of Monsters! As they embark on their quest, they are beset upon by man-apes, bloodthirsty aliens, and prehistoric terrors that appear to be clumsily composited stop-motion animatronics.
Yet that’s only a part of the game’s fiction. You see, the Deadly Tower of Monsters is the unsung masterpiece of auteur director Dan Smith, and for this special edition re-release after all this time, he’s providing a commentary track elaborating on his screaming, unrecognized genius. Nevermind all the visible suspension strings… and toy-looking UFOs… and the fact that those killer monkeys are clearly guys in bad makeup – this was a film that was so ahead of its time, only modern audiences can truly appreciate its brilliance. (Probably ironically, but shhh – let’s not tell him that.)
The game consists of both top-down and semi-sidescrolling stages, where you jump, roll, and fight your way to freedom. Armed with only your trusty space blaster and your melee combat skills, you must fell the foes that beset you and maneuver through the tower. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a straight climb up, either – you can do a (bungee-cord-propelled) freefall off of the tower to access lower levels again.
The elaborate meta-fiction comes to life in many interesting ways as you play, and the commentary that director Smith provides can change based on the situation – for example, if you’re getting pounded by foes, he might launch into an anecdote about how the budget prevented him from getting proper safety gear for his lead actor. It’s a fun – and funny – concept for an action game, and if the full release is even half as enjoyable as the demo we played, this is going to be a blast – pun semi-intended.
PLATFORM: PS4/PC / CATEGORY: Action / DEVELOPER: ACE Team / PUBLISHER: Atlus / DUE: FALL 2015