Platforms: PlayStation 4 (reviewed), PC
Cheesy sci-fi movies. We can't escape them. We're talking about that "UFO on a string" and "obvious guy in a cheap robot costume" sort of film, the kind that the Mystery Science Theater crew would obviously rip out as they have joyous fun with what the director intended. Now, someone's gone and made a video game that pays full, cheesy tribute to them. It's not a perfect effort, but fans of the genre – and stop-motion monsters, for that matter, should happily indulge.
The Deadly Tower of Monsters tells the tale of a heroic spaceman – the noble Dick Starspeed – as he ascends the tower, fighting off everything from bugs to dogs dressed up as vacuums (I'm serious) to a giant gorilla that isn't a knock-off of King Kong due to copyright reasons. Other heroes join the fray – including an equally kick-ass female astronaut and said dude in robot suit (Scarlet Nova and, well, "Robot") – as you continue your journey, all while a smarmy director provides ongoing commentary, talking about budget cuts and prodding his assistant to go on lunch break.
Stacking Everything Into a Sci-Fi "Mess"
As you journey through Deadly Tower, you'll run into pretty much everything – stop-motion pterodactyls that have no trouble making your day miserable, UFO's with brains encased inside (which, of course, leak out after you destroy them), and even dudes in monkey suits. You can fend them off either with your laser blasters or your melee weapons, which range from a tribal spear to a tuning fork to a Hercules-like sword, all of which can be upgraded over the course of the game. The guns can be perked up as well, and you see the effects pay off as you fry a fleet of cheesy-looking ants with one clean shot.
There are times that the gameplay can be a bit repetitive – smacking enemies around with your melee weapon is pretty much the same thing throughout – but it's all in good fun, and the situations become sillier and sillier as you progress through Deadly Tower, leading to a final level where all bets are off and, yep, a surprise twist will throw you for a loop. Take that, Shyamalan! The checkpoint system is also more than fair, so you won't start too far back if you're overwhelmed.
The only thing I'd really complain about here is the camera control, since, well, there isn't any. You have to pretty much follow the default angle that's given to you, and it can be slightly annoying, especially when the camera automatically pans out and doesn't give you a degree of depth when you're trying to make a jump. Otherwise, it works okay, especially as you lean over the side and shoot at any enemies coming up at you. It adds a fun degree to the gameplay.
On top of that, there are also collectible things you can find in each world, such as being able to fall through hoops (you can instantly teleport back to where you fell from, so you don't make a mess), even though there's not much replay value once the thing is done. Still, it delivers on its sci-fi purpose. It satisfies as it goes along, and who knows, you just might be inspired to try it again, if only to give some validation to "Robot" the robot (maybe I should just say "Robot," that's clear enough).
A Presentation For the True Ed Wood Fan
Camera issues aside, Deadly Tower looks fantastic when it comes to embracing its sci-fi motif. The levels themselves are huge and really span quite a bit of distance, and the variety of enemies you come across are thoughtful in a sci-fi sort of way, from a big buzzsaw-wielding robot to that King Kong clone (that totally isn't King Kong) that rampages his way through a series of platforms. The best is definitely saved for last, but I won't dare spoil it.
The game's sub systems also go a long way into benefitting the theme of Deadly Tower. The instant teleport set-up on your touch-pad (something not quite 50's-style, but still works) is helpful if you want to get back to a key point in the game, and the light-up terminals make it easy to change and upgrade your weapons on the fly. There's also a character switch system that's built like a gigantic bubble – because forget just flipping a switch, we need to make it look like something Marvin the Martian would use.
As for what really ties the game together, it's the sound. Not only do we have some genuinely fun sci-fi themes playing throughout in Deadly Tower, but the director's commentary is hilarious. He'll have a story around literally every corner you take in this world, from insults (and then compliments) about the lead actors to how he got certain enemies to appear in the game (like barely paying anyone in the bug suits). Plus, his comments when you die are ingenious- "Lost scene!", followed by a rewind button to, of course, make up for it. The actor dialogue is good, too, with everyone channeling their inner Shatner (not as well, of course).