“Tower 57 is a top-down twin stick shooter with 16-bit inspired pixel art, destructible environments and heavy focus on co-op. It is also a modern take on what made Amiga games so great back in the days.” That’s how Tower 57’s store page describes it. Now, I’ve never actually played an Amiga game, mostly because I grew up in the Nintendo/Sega ecosystems where nothing else existed (I still have a tub full of old Nintendo Power magazines that I keep around as a reminder of what propaganda looks like), and I’ll be playing through this game solo because I hate people. Additionally, my first exposure to the gameplay was looking it up on Youtube and watching a group of (what can only generously be referred to as) people screaming over each other in an unbearable cacophony while failing to play through the demo. You’d think that all of this would be enough to deter me, but there’s one thing that kept pulling me in, ensuring that I had to play the game for myself rather than writing it off. To quote the store page description again: “Times of randomly generated levels are gone – everything in Tower 57 is carefully designed and pixel-crafted with the highest attention to detail.” A game with great pixel art, destructible environments, and no procedural generation? That’s right up my alley.
The first thing you’ll notice is the humor
I think these speak for themselves:
The gameplay gets pretty chaotic
I’ve only played for a little over an hour, so I’m still learning how everything works (in the video below, I walk right by a green switch that would have probably opened up a hidden area or given some extra money/items), but the gameplay thus far has been really good. You start the game by selecting three characters from the six available, and you can switch between them whenever you find a closet during a level. I’m not sure why you’d need to do that, but it’s still early. I’m playing as the scientist right now, and she starts out with both a slow/weak gun that has infinite ammo and a more powerful electricity attack that uses ammo. Before long, I picked up a harpoon gun that pins enemies to walls to make them easier to pick off. Switching between these is as easy as hitting the right bumper (on a controller, obviously), and each has its strengths and weaknesses. The infinite ammo of the default gun makes it ideal for destroying the environment. The stronger electricity weapon can go through walls (thus cheesing certain enemies) and is ideal for boss fights. The harpoon is fun to use and might help against pursuing enemies.
One of the first things I did was save up enough money for a torso upgrade. You can upgrade your torso, legs, and individual arms, and doing so grants bonuses to those body parts. For example, a few torso upgrades later, my scientist gained passive health regeneration. Money can be found all over, and is a great reason to destroy stuff. This is doubly true because each mission (thus far) has been separated by a return to Tower 57’s city area, and you can buy lots of stuff there. Ammo, weapons, weapon upgrades, pants, body upgrades, etcetera. Body upgrades are also available mid-mission, with a limited number of stores selling things from terminals.
Needless to say, there’s a lot going on here. It can be kind of overwhelming at first, but it doesn’t take long to become comfortable with how things work. Attack with right trigger (again, on a controller), strafe with the left stick, aim with the right stick. These blue orbs are “Mana Balls,” which restore your special meter. Defeating enemies also slowly restores your special meter, and when it’s full, you can hit X to unleash a special attack. My scientist character’s special shoots lasers down onto all nearby enemies, which is pretty great. Especially since the special meter refills fast.
Then there are these rarer yellow-orange orbs called “Amber Balls,” which can be used at the city’s Fortune Teller to revive characters. I haven’t died yet, so I haven’t yet had to figure out how the game handles character deaths, but Amber Balls can also apparently be sold to a guy in the city for some extra cash.
I’ve gone through two boss fights thus far, with this being the first of them. It’s pretty easy since it’s still the early game, but you can see how useful the special attack (and dash move) are. The second boss was similar, but much more of a damage sponge. It’ll be interesting to see whether the difficulty is ramped up by making bosses smarter or by simply giving them bigger health bars.
There’s a lot of hidden stuff in this game, with obscured switches opening up alcoves, walls that can be broken by shooting at them, things that drop tons of money when you shoot at them, and probably much more stuff I haven’t seen yet. I really didn’t need an extra reason to try to destroy absolutely everything, but it’s appreciated nonetheless. All of the hidden stuff makes areas more exciting since you never know when you can blow open a wall and obtain a new weapon.
The sprite art is glorious
Just look at this burger:
That’s hardly the only example of the game’s great sprite work, either. Everything is absurdly detailed and colorful, and destructible objects even have multiple stages of destruction that they go through as you attack them. The only possible downside of this is that it might become hard to keep track of where everything is if later stages feature large mobs of enemies, but that hasn’t become a problem yet.
Scientist in the city
I don’t even know where to start with the city. I’ve barely scratched the surface with this place, but figuring out all the things that can be done will require more money, and I’ve spent all of my money already on torso upgrades.
There’s at least one item that only seems to have a use in co-op, but I can’t really hold that against the game since its emphasis on co-op is front and center on the store page. And this is the only thing I’m missing out on that I’ve seen thus far.
Okay, I didn’t spend all of my money on torso upgrades. I also wanted this drone.
I haven’t had an opportunity to use it yet, though, because I stopped playing right after I bought it. The game claims that it provides “additional firepower,” but it’s not clear how substantial that additional firepower is, or if the drone needs protecting.