Towerfall Ascension Review: Surprising solo fun
Fifteen dollars isn’t a lot for a game, but when the original Towerfall came to the Ouya, I cringed at its price tag. Sure, it was the best release on the platform, but it felt like a lot for a simplistic party game, especially on a $100 console. Admittedly, the game justified its cost with a surprising amount of depth, but I still feel a lot better about recommending Towerfall Ascension, the new PS4 and PC version of the game, thanks to its new single-player and co-op content.
What you get with Ascension is the same core gameplay as the original Ouya release, but with a bunch of new content added in. The four-player competitive mode pits four archers against each other in a 2D arena that loops around on itself like the original Pac-Man. Each archer has three arrows, which they can retrieve from each other as the battle rages on. A dodge button gives each player some extra mobility, and they can even catch an incoming arrow with careful timing. Throw in wall jumps and a selection of power-ups on the map and that’s all there is to it.
The end result is something akin to Smash Bros., but with mind-games between players in place of character dynamics. Every player has the same toolset to work with, so it becomes a matter of outsmarting your opponent rather than learning a character’s moveset. It’s a very pure experience, and it ignites the sort of epic game nights that you only get with classics like Bomberman or the aforementioned Smash Bros.
What’s even more impressive about Towerfall’s 3-button mechanics is how they apply so well to the game’s campaign mode. This new mode for Ascension offers up wave-based missions across several maps, with a pile of enemies to tackle and a ton of challenge for one or two players. It doesn’t offer any story to connect the missions, but if you’ve ever enjoyed an in-depth single player mode in a fighting game you’ll likely have plenty of fun here.
It’s almost unfair how well this mode will familiarize new players with the game’s mechanics. Diving straight into the multiplayer, it’s easy to forget about the dodge or have trouble navigating the maps. By the end of the campaign the dodge will become as vital as the jump button, and you’ll be able to loop around the maps like a pro.
At first I thought the new content was a bit sparse, but it gets a ton of mileage by being really challenging. Finishing each mission on the default difficulty is hard enough, but a hardcore mode and unlockable missions keep the challenge coming. In addition, the game offers up a Trial mode where you’re tasked with hitting a number of targets within the time limit. It isn’t quite as fun as the campaign, but its yet another layer in a game that should have been a barebones party game.
The competitive game at the heart of Towerfall Ascension is still the main event, so if you don’t have extra controllers and friends you’ll probably want to pass. That said, it’s nice that there’s something fun to do with the game even when you're on your own. It's not enough to recommend the game entirely as a solo experience, but I still had a ton of fun with it and see myself going back for more, even if no one is around.
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