Release Date: March 11, 2014
For the longest time it felt as if developers were slowly chipping away at the world of local multiplayer. It was honestly a bit frightening to see couch multiplayer suddenly being left out. Then, out of nowhere, a batch of games over the past year and 2014 have single-handedly brought back local play.
TowerFall Ascension is one of these games, and definitely makes the point that local play is still tremendously fun. Of course, that requires the player to actually still be interested in local play after having grown accustomed to the online way of things.
TowerFall Ascension is a very simple game. Whether you play alone or with buddies, the basics are still the same. You are an archer and are tasked with fighting off various enemies. Be it floating eyeballs, ghosts, other archers, or whatever else gets thrown at you, each can be decimated with a well-aimed arrow. Each 2D stage has its own tricks but you“ll have to spend some time with each to come up with your favorite strategies. For example, even though stages may have a gaping pit on the floor, falling through just ends up with you falling from the ceiling. It“s akin to warping from one side of the screen to the other in Pac-Man and proves very useful in tight spots.
There“s obviously a lot of inspiration from retro games present here. It moves far beyond the pixel art aesthetic, as well. Characters have a limited amount of lives but they also have only a few bows in their quiver. However, unlike some classic titles, you can actually reclaim used bows by picking them off the ground - or enemy corpses. Of course, other archers can do the same regardless of who originally owned the arrows. Arrows come in a variety of forms thanks to power ups which include drill and bomb variations.
Of course, this would all be for naught if the control was anything less than perfect. Despite its roots on a system with a noted problematic controller, TowerFall Ascension feels perfectly tuned for PS3 controllers. Characters move exactly as ordered, arrows shoot in mostly predictable arcs, and the experience is generally as frantic as it is exciting. Even death is fun as, upon respawning, the immediate radius around your character will explode (hopefully catching an enemy in its wake!).
With all that said, there“s very little reason to go at the game alone unless you absolutely love tough, pixelated titles. Solo players will find a story and trial mode available to them but it all feels somewhat lonesome. There“s no doubt that the game was meant to be played with two or more people at once and you can“t help but feel left out. For those who are now used to online matches, well, you can“t do that here because it“s local multiplayer only. And no, there“s no intention to add in online play later.
It“s weird, but the local-only standpoint has actually caused some anger. Many of us have gotten used to dictating online match times and enjoying games in that manner. If you have a small group of friends nearby who would still be willing to sit down on the same couch with you though then definitely get them in on this game. Since it“s fairly simple to control, you“ll soon find yourself locked in heated battles with buddies. Hopefully, it might even spur everyone to hang out more often for local games.
Why doesn“t this game offer online play alongside local play? Without delving into the technical specifics, there“s a pretty simple reason behind it. TowerFall Ascension is a pretty fast game with precise controls and it takes place in a generally single-screen environment. Because every character is in close proximity, you will be very aware of their movements and how their bows should land. The subtle lag in online games is usually compensated for, but it would be readily apparent with such a small, quick game as this. If all lag could suddenly be abolished from games then there would be no reason to keep online out of the experience, but as it stands, it just wouldn“t work out well.
Anyone who has access to both nearby friends and multiple PS4 controllers (or 360 controllers for PC) should buy TowerFall Ascension. There“s currently very little of worth in regards to multiplayer on the PS4 PSN market. Even if there were, the simple control scheme and enthusiastic matches between players make this game an easy choice. If, however, you are not interested in local multiplayer then this is much harder to recommend. The game ends up feeling very difficult and incredibly lonesome once you realize that it wants you to play with others. For that reason, solo players likely won“t find TowerFall Ascension as great a game as others make it out to be.
+ Simplistic gameplay proves immediately entertaining
+ Multiplayer matches captivate all players
+ Variety of power ups to shift the tide of battle
- Solo gameplay modes cannot replicate the fun of multiplayer
- Little done to keep non-multiplayer gamers engaged
Overall Score: 7.0 (out of 10)
Fans of local multiplayer owe it to themselves to pick up TowerFall Ascension.
Disclosure: This review is based on PS4 downloadable code provided by the publisher