If you’re of a certain age or you’re a movie buff or you’ve just been alive at some point between the 1950’s and now, you’ll have heard of B-Movies. Low budget, low skill, highly amusing films adored by college students the world over. Just take a single episode of Lost in Space and then imagine an entire movie with one tenth of that budget. What you end up with is a genre all of its own, and the dodgy science fiction B-Movie was probably the most impressively terrible sub-genre the film industry has ever known. Developer ACE Team and publisher Atlus have worked together to bring this awesome genre to the PS4 in the form of The Deadly Tower of Monsters. Become Dick Starspeed and climb the deadly tower to overthrow the evil emperor and impress your blonde companion and robot sidekick. Sounds terrible, doesn’t it? Well actually, it’s pretty damn good.
As a writer of comedy, I could start this review off with some Dick jokes, but as a huge Nightwing and Dick Grayson fan, I got them out of my system many years ago. I now possess the ability to say ‘Dick’ over and over with a completely straight face. Dick just doesn’t do it for me anymore. But that’s a whole other story so let’s move on. It’s clear from the moment you meet Dick Starspeed that you’re about to play a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously. In fact, The Deadly Tower of Monsters is a hoot from beginning to end. It has a beautifully ridiculous plot that makes as much sense as a tube of toothpaste in a gynaecologist’s office. The real attraction here though, is the director’s commentary. You’re essentially playing a movie and as you progress, the director talks through the scenes just as you would normally find on a DVD commentary. At first it seemed a little weird that someone was going to talk while I was playing (another reason why I insist on living alone), but it is hilarious and it completely makes the game. It certainly crossed my mind that some of the outlandish stuff the director tells us might not actually be far off the mark!
The Deadly Tower of Monsters is both a platform game and a shooter. In order to defeat the evil emperor, Dick and his companions must ascend a mighty tower. Staircases, lifts, platforms and gravity shoots will all assist brave Dick in his mission, but he’ll need to watch out for a surprisingly broad range of creatures that will try to eat, electrocute, poke and stomp him. Be careful because some of these monsters are tricky little things and quite deadly – obviously, otherwise the game would be called The Slightly Risky Tower of Monsters. Expect giant ants, dinosaurs, snails, gorillas, blobs and robo-monkeys. The variety of enemies certainly keeps the game feeling fresh and interesting. You never quite know what’s waiting above you. You never know what’s waiting below you either. Approach any edge to look over and aim your weapon and if you’re very lucky (or unlucky) you’ll find pterosaurs and flying saucers.
It’s certainly an interesting and entertaining climb. The mechanics work perfectly and death by malfunction is rare. There are very few edges to the tower so a degree of being careful is advised but if your Dick does suddenly drop off there’s a handy transporter function that, if you’re quick, will zap him back onto a nearby ledge. The tower is really something to behold and, quite wonderfully, if you want to deliberately leap off the side and re-visit every single level below you most certainly can and, in fact, it is encouraged. You’ll need to collect cogs to upgrade your weapons and some of these are only accessible by a leap of faith. Also find secret areas and soar through big golden rings Batman style. You do have a handy jetpack with magically regenerating fuel, but unfortunately the amount that you can use at any one time is extremely limited so you’ll need to work on how much you can use for a soft landing. If you’re a vertigo sufferer, however, there are transporters dotted around the tower, and once activated you can jump to any of them whenever you like. You are somewhat free to explore at your own pace. No area is cut off once you’ve left it, giving the tower a reasonable degree of openness than is often missing from some platformers. There are also a few occasions when the game will force you to use these transporters and take flying leaps in search of something vital to move you forwards.
Along the way you’ll find various booths, one of which that will allow you switch characters. No one character is particularly better than another for general play, but there will be the odd occasion when you’ll need a superpower possessed by a specific character. As well as the switching booths, there are terminals that allow you to change equipment and upgrade it. While I found upgrading didn’t make a great deal of difference to gameplay, collecting new weapons was awesome fun. There is a wide variety of ray guns and melee weapons to find. You’ll need weapons you’re comfortable with for the bigger encounters and boss battles. I won’t spoil you, but some of these battle events are truly epic.
The game runs at approximately six hours, which feels about right. We all loved Planet of the Apes but a thirty hour film would have killed it. Instead ACE Team have given us six hours of an extremely entertaining adventure that gets even better towards the latter part of the game. This is one tower that is not as straightforward as you may think, and it will throw you some interesting and amusing changes and challenges. A lot happens in this game. If The Deadly Tower of Monsters was ever made into a real B-Movie, it would be the most expensive B-Movie ever made.
The Deadly Tower of Monsters is a game with charm. It’s clear the development team had a wonderful time making it. It’s a hilarious, colourful and charismatic adventure, and the director’s commentary is a highly original idea that completes the game and makes it stand out from any other. Fantastic fun.
S J Hollis Rating – 8/10