TowerFall Ascension Review: PS4’s Must-Have Party Game
TowerFall was pretty much the biggest reason to own an Ouya last year. Matt Thorson, head of developer Matt Makes Games, has a great way of selling hardware as TowerFall Ascension will make you buy second, third or fourth PS4 controllers. That may sound crazy, to say a simple indie game like TowerFall can influence a person to spend $60-$180 on additional hardware but its undeniable from the moment you boot it up that you need to experience this with as many friends as possible.
If you haven’t heard of it already, TowerFall will create and end friendships in a flash. The game is a 2D archery-combat platformer with a strong emphasis on local multiplayer. You play as one of four different archers, each differing in looks and color, and duke it out in frantic four player battles.
Your archer is very fragile as one hit will kill your pixelated warrior. You have a limited amount of arrows, usually starting with three, and fire them with square. Arrows bend, fall and sway after being shot, giving the archery some unpredictability. It also makes it very satisfying when an arrow curves around a platform to land a successful kill-shot on your opponent. Once you fire all of your arrows you will have to retrieve them from wherever they landed which can be tense when your enemy has a full quiver.
Additional you can stomp on your enemies head a la Super Mario to end their life and there are various environmental hazards to avoid or use to your advantage. Items are laid out randomly on stages and provide useful items like bomb arrows, wings to fly, extra arrows, invisibility cloaks and more. This balances the game out very well as even the experienced, skilled player will lose to a lesser opponent from time to time.
Another similarity to Mario is how the stages wrap around, meaning if you fall through a hole in the floor you will come out from the top of the stage, the same works from left to right or vice versa. This forces you to pay attention to your opponent’s movements so that you can catch them off-guard by using a stage short-cut to get near them.
Versus mode is where the meat of the game is. 2-4 players try relentlessly to kill each other and get to a certain number of kills first. You will be screaming, laughing and quite possibly crying as the action gets intense and never ceases to be fun. It’s a simple concept but Matt Makes Games executes the fundamentals of what makes local gaming a blast flawlessly. Super Smash Archers? Maybe that’s not an entirely accurate comparison but like Nintendo’s popular fighting series, TowerFall Ascension gives you an amazing and unpredictable four player experience with limitless replay value.
You can customize versus battles through variants, giving players new angles to approach the action. Do you want to use nothing but explosive bomb arrows? Equip each player with invisibility on a stage that continually scrolls? There are plenty of customization options to mix up your multiplayer battles, keeping the chaos fresh.
TowerFall Ascension could work online but it pleases me that Mat Makes Games focused on local play. Sure, the game would still be a blast over the web but it would lose a lot. This is a game that will make you curse your dearest friends and we all know how online players behave. TowerFall stands as a big middle finger to the mega-publishers who proclaim that people aren’t interested in local play anymore and that’s part of what makes it awesome, its refusal to give up on local multiplayer.
New to the PS4 version is Quest Mode, a two player co-op horde-type mode. In Quest Mode you and one friend battle waves of enemies across multiple stages with a limited number of lives. Waves become increasingly difficult as you go on, making real team work a necessity. You can turn off friendly fire to avoid some excessive deaths in co-op but where would be the fun in that? Quest Mode compliments the Versus Mode well and together they complete a great multiplayer package.
The audio in TowerFall won’t blow you away but little sounds here and there add to the game’s charm. The music is good even if nothing stands out and gives each match an epic feel. Visually TowerFall is simple and gets the job done. Environments, characters, enemies, and weapons are well designed and unique and the retro 2D look helps to keep some order to the insanity in every match. In a game where things get hectic quick the art style makes it easy to keep track of where you and your opponents are at all times.
The two player Quest Mode isn’t the only addition over last year’s Ouya version of the game, there are 50 brand new versus maps totaling out at 120 in all. Let’s be honest though, when most of you heard that TowerFall was ditching Ouya exclusivity for a PS4 port you probably said, “What’s an Ouya?” It feels at home among the many great indie titles already available on the PS4 and will probably still be in contention for best PS4 party game by the time Sony’s PS4 successor comes out.
If you don’t have more than one Dual Shock 4 and can’t afford additional controllers than TowerFall Ascension isn’t for you. This isn’t a game you want to play alone as playing the Quest Mode by yourself is fun but loses a lot without companions. Once you play it at a friend’s house it will shoot up to the top of your wishlist along with extra controllers but don’t purchase TowerFall Ascension if you don’t have friends that will play it with you.
TowerFall Ascension is the quintessential party game that should be in your PS4 library. The days of playing games in the same room as other real live people aren’t gone just yet. This is a game that creates legendary gaming memories with friends that you will fondly look back on years from now. That’s the great thing about a fun local multiplayer game like TowerFall, it creates memories that will instantly transport you back to a pleasant time in your life when it inevitably gets brought up in conversations about great party games decades from now. If TowerFall Ascension can’t put a smile on your face than you just may be the type of person who likes to watch the world burn.
Copy of TowerFall Ascension provided by Matt Makes Games. Played over five hours of local multiplayer. Thousands of arrows were harmed in the making of this review.