Weird science! Monsters! A TOWER! Crappy acting! It’s everything you loved to find so terribly wonderful of B-class sci-fi movies all wrapped up in a neat little package: The Deadly Tower of Monsters. From Atlus USA and developer ACE Team, can the gimmick carry the game, or will it fall victim to its subject matter’s inherent absurdity and shoddiness?
What Is It?
The Deadly Tower of Monsters mimics not a straight-up sci-fi B movie, but the DVD of said movie. From the menu, the film’s director Dan Smith will pipe up and get ready to record his commentary of how the film was made and the various issues behind it. He’ll have a fun time with most of it and occasionally bring in the recording producer (assistant?) Patrick for what he thinks are edit stoppages.
The film follows its hero Dick Starspeed as he crash lands his ship on a mysterious planet that seems to be randomly populated with clashing apes, dinosaurs, alligator men, and a variety of other monsters not uncommon of the time. All of whom surround, you guessed it, The Deadly Tower of Monsters, with a sinister Emperor and his maniacal doctor pulling the strings behind the world.
Dick Starspeed won’t be the film’s only hero, though. He’ll come across the strong Scarlet Nova (who Smith directly states was part of a very progressive move on his part, to feature a female in such a way) and eventually his not-Robby-the-Robot companion. Complete with bad acting, dopey jokes, and horrible production value, the the trio will work in tandem (never simultaneously) to defeat the bad alien things like any other film of its day.
Why Should I Care?
Tower’s premise is actually quite the hook in itself: a Mysterious Science Theater 3000 style commentary of a “classic” film type. Film geeks like myself can certainly appreciate the effort to drive that point home. You don’t even have to do anything but start up the game to get into Dan Smith’s premature commentary, or even get into the main menu to see some great artwork that draws inspiration from Plan 9 From Outer Space or The Blob. Unfortunately, that’s primarily all you can really care about from the game.
The game itself is a sort of beat ‘em up platformer with one of the most atrocious camera angles that I’ve endured in some time. It’s about 3/4ths top-down and will constantly create depth perception issues when scaling various ledges or towers. Falling to your death can be far too easy because of the wretched angle that hides just how little room you have to move, saved only by a built-in mechanic to teleport you back to your previous location. To some degree, it can be a cheap move, but it actually tends to be a major lifesaver because of the annoyance of having to backtrack so much if you happen to die.
Falling will primarily be the way you’ll die as the combat itself isn’t ever too bad or difficult, save for the times where you are just overwhelmed with numbers or overpowering ranged attacks. It’s actually touched upon in some of the commentary; that the director was attempting to set on-screen number records for particular monsters, like dinosaurs. Using any of the characters won’t give you major advantages and you can switch at any time provided you find one of the sleep chambers that can’t be explained because science. Or something. Each character will introduce a new weapon when you come across them and/or a new special power to help you advance through different parts of the world. Some of the weaponry is quite nice and powerful, like the black hole gun or Tesla pistol (my favorites), and there is a small scale progression system built into the mix. Good luck trying to read the menus, though.
I normally don’t face UI visibility issues on my television (note: PS4 version played for this review) and hadn’t since using an Xbox 360 on an old non-HDTV. But Tower had awful menus to read, constantly requiring squints and deep concentration to finish reading. Its only easy-to-read element were the subtitles for any commentary or film dialogue, and that’s where the game really shines.
Dan Smith’s commentary is luckily great to listen to throughout the game because if it wasn’t, it would be horrendously boring and incredibly frustrating. But with his running commentary and the commitment to the gimmick, the game squeaks by with being just fun enough to play through. He’ll poke fun of his stars, the extras, the corners they cut, and essentially every trope you can think of within the genre. It won’t ever become tiring because you know it’s a joke. One of my favorite moments was when Dan specifically calls out that you must call out the name of the movie somewhere in the dialogue. Tower even touches upon some issues that are primarily issues in retrospect and yet still issues, primarily focusing on the progressive nature of a female saving a man because “that never happens.” They are nice digs. Even dying can be a little more enjoyable, as either Dan or Patrick will point out that they used the wrong footage and you’ll have to “rewind” to start over. But ultimately, you are just completing some repetitive work in an otherwise forgettable settings.
What Makes It Worth My Time and Money?
What it really comes down to is how much the gimmick is worth to you. $10? $15? It’ll save you from having to spend your own time recording snide commentary over some bad film, with the slight benefit of playing a game. But I can’t totally recommend dropping much on The Deadly Tower of Monsters unless the premise is something you totally care about because much of the meaning will be lost on you.
You’re better off finding a crappy movie on Netflix or Hulu and completing your own MST3K session with some friends.