In modern media, the skyscraper frequently hosts an inverted voyage to the underworld, with heroes scaling their way toward the malicious forces on the uppermost level. Whether it’s the original Die Hard, The Raid, Dredd, or the recent release of Tower 57 on PC, there’s something innately satisfying about watching a mighty conqueror climb upward, overpowering any opposition foolish enough to stand in their way.
For Berlin-based Pixwerk, this journey is set in a dystopian, neo-Victorian setting, with society only an infinitesimal subset of its former self, and survivors lingering outside of Megatowers. The spires are where an eccentric Supervisor of Grutin Inc, has gone on strike, threatening an already endangered populace. To soothe the situation, a team of well-armed characters have been called on to infiltrate the eponymous high-rise, preventing insurgence from spreading to other towers.
First, players select a strike team of three agents from the game’s collection of seven idiosyncratic personalities. Seemingly, Tower 57 draws inspiration from The Chaos Engine’s gallery of rogues, with eccentrics like a tommy-gun toting gangster, and a diplomat who looks just like Abraham Lincoln. Beyond a default pea-shooter outfitted with infinite ammo, each brings a distinctive weapon with them, from Honest Abe’s flamethrower to the Spy’s lightning ray, as well as special devices that do things like slow down time or launch bald eagles that chase down enemies like a patriot missile. Rounding out your offensive output is a special attack; kill enough enemies and you’ll be able to trigger a devastating strike that damages every enemy onscreen.
Like any good twin-stick shooter, there’s a contending amount of weapon variety. Some armaments can be procured from defeated enemies, while others are located in the loot boxes that are conveniently placed where hordes of enemies converge. Surprisingly, the unique weapon that each character brings to battle can be picked and used by anyone. This becomes evident when one of your teammates perishes.
Interestingly, an agent’s death transfers control to the next character. Once all three combatants have expired, progress will revert to the last checkpoint. Unfortunately, Tower 57 is rather stingy with the placement of these stations, which will inevitably lead to frustration as you repeatedly reattempt a half-hour stretch of gameplay. And infuriation is liable when the stages start tossing limb-severing sawblades about, which will either reduce your ambulatory speeds when a leg lost or diminish your damage output when an arm is amputated.
Limb loss is an intriguing inclusion, and darkly humorous when you see your resolute agent attempt to shamble to the “arm center” where collected coins can be used to fix the obliterated appendage. But given Tower 57’s difficulty and the infrequent number of these restoration centers, it’s often tempting to just sacrifice any remaining teammates and begin fresh from the last checkpoint, at least early on. Later, you can augment your arms and torso, using currency to become cybernetic, which logically, increases your defense as well as your offensive output. Once you do trade flesh for metal, Tower 57’s incapacitations work better, especially once you are able to strengthen your midsection.
Beyond the issue with infrequent checkpointing, Tower 57’s other design decisions are adept. While the game is undoubted influenced by classic like Zombies Ate My Neighbors and the aforementioned The Chaos Engine, there are a number of technological improvements presents. The most noticeable the inclusion of 360-degree firing, which is supplemented by a bit of aiming assistance. In execution, this gives gamers a bit more accuracy, which is a blessing when ammo is limited. Related is the title’s environmental damage modeling, with most items on a stage exhibiting different stages of destruction. Cleverly, the game gracefully punishes players who fire incriminatingly, with elements like steam valves that can be broken, revealing harmful jets of scalding vapor.
This attention to detail extends to other elements of Tower 57. Character animations don’t have the sprite-based restraints of the sixteen-bit era, flaunting remarkably fluid routines. Enemies are creatively designed. From lurking crabs that come alive, turning their homes into mortar launchers to mechanized orbs, and even remote-control helicopters, there’s a pleasing sense of enemy variety- in both appearance and action. Similarly, the tile-based backdrops go an excellent job at conveying the different sections of Tower 57, offering a swampy basement to plush, art deco-styled top floors. Sonically, the game’s chiptune soundtrack does an adept job at evoking a bygone era, without sounding dated.
While Tower 57 can be played solo, the game shines in cooperative mode, permitting online or local participants to infiltrate the stronghold as a team. With one agent drawing fire while the other takes out targets, gameplay becomes even more enlivened. It’s so fun that you’ll probably lament that the game doesn’t have an option for an AI partner. Despite this lapse, individuals with a fond remembrance of games like Ghoul Patrol will want to tackle tower’s tribulations. That recommendation grows exponentially if you have a like-minded friend.
Tower 57 was played on PC with review code provided by the publisher.
Publisher: 11 bit Studios
Release date: November 16th, 2017
Price: $11.99 via Steam
Difficulty: Moderate to Hard