Tower 57 – One Part Pixel, Two Parts Awesome

Tower 57

Some genres in the gaming sphere have stood the test of time. From conception and early design all the way to modern incarnations, there are styles of gameplay and mechanics that simply stand the test of time. They evolve and develop with time, sure, but the core mechanics that make them great have always been a part of their makeup and it’s part of what makes them great. From classic FPS like Wolfenstein or Doom, to ARPG loot fests such as Diablo 1 or Titans Quest, we have and some incredible genres both birthed and defined over the years. This is where Tower 57 comes in.

In recent times we have seen our fair share of new games that give a great nod and in many cases capture what made these classics great. One genre that has been interesting to watch make its comeback in recent times is the top-down shooter. There have been some great reimaginings of the genre, some that have done alright and others that simply failed to capture the essence of what makes this grandpappy of gaming genres great.

Enter Tower 57; a self-proclaimed reimagining of the Commodore Amiga games of old, a neo-retro, top-down, twin-stick shooter that does its very best to capture what made games like Alien Breed and Tower Assault so addictive back in their prime. For those who cut their gaming teeth on console instead of PC think Alien Syndrome (arguably one of the best NES games ever created), a combination of fast-paced, co-op goodness wrapped in a challenging candy coating. In these classics every bullet counted, every hit taken was almost guaranteed death and memorization of levels, enemies and weapons were key. The good old days when respawn meant hitting reset, hard was the assumed difficulty and we couldn’t rage quit because we only had three games and we had already beaten the other two!

To be frank that is a lot to live up to and developer Pixwerk had no problem proclaiming their desire to face the challenge head-on After a successful kickstarter and the support of Publisher 11 Bit Studio, Tower 57’s steam release is right around the corner and I’ve had some time to spend with this retro inspired 16 bit pixel art style game to see if it really could live up to my unrealistic expectations. A quick note that at the time of writing I have only been able to spend time with the demo of the game and as such this will not be a full review. I will however do my best to highlight some of the highs and lows in the title. So grab that coffee, sit back and enjoy this preview of Pixwerk’s Tower 57.

Set in a world that the developers describe as a “1920’s art-deco- inspired dystopian cyberpunk setting” (Benitosub), Tower 57 features some incredible 16-bit pixel art. What blew me away upon jumping into this title was just now gorgeous it is. I have to confess that I have a special place in my heart for 16-bit pixel art but that aside the attention to detail in art design and direction is incredible. I spent all of my time with the game in a sewer level but even here I found myself stopping several times to take in the world design.

After playing through the demo level a few times I went online and then spent another half an hour looking at some of the screenshots from other parts of the game. It really is a beautifully created game with expert attention given to each detail. It is some of the better 16-bit pixel art I have seen in the last few years and really look forward to seeing how the other levels feel by comparison to my experience in the sewers.

The story is a pretty basic offering with your secret organization set on the task of stopping an evil businessman from ruining everything. I appreciated that Tower 57 doesn’t take itself too seriously but instead capitalizes on all of the cheesy goodness that is afforded to it by the very nature of what it are trying to recreate. Story was typically secondary in the original titles, with function, combat and fun taking the driver’s seat when it came to direction of game development. Pixwerk seems to understand this and has followed a similar design philosophy.

Beautiful art style and design aside another area that Tower 57 excels at is in its level design. Simply put the game rewards you for exploring. The level I played through was intelligently designed with each element very intentional to the overall game experience.This is a great nod to some of the games that inspired this title. Even after four playthroughs I was still finding new secret areas and items. This reward for exploration was one of the things that made games like the aforementioned Alien Syndrome so great.

This brings me to another point that really stood out in Pixwerk’s title; it’s not easy, in a good way. It’s a challenging title that forces you to really pay attention to everything happening on screen. From memorizing enemy encounters to remembering where every medkit, ammo crate, and vendor in the level are all crucial to survival. Once again Tower 57 captures the essence of so many of those old titles while still managing to add its own modern take to the genre. An interesting upgrading system in the form of upgradable character enhancements is in place and happens via a vendor system. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to spend as much time with this system as I would have liked but my first impression is that it will be a solid addition to the experience.

The final thing of note is two fold. Combat is tight, fast paced and satisfying. It requires quick reflexes, memorization and smart tactics for you to be successful. The game offers 6 different playable characters each with a unique weapon and starter ability as well as one ultimate ability that is catered to the character.  The Don, for instance, summons a mod style drive by shooting of all the enemies in the area while the officer sends in an air drop that unleashes a devastating army of droids to attack your enemies. Each character brings a unique set of tools to the table and all of them were fun to play.

What makes the combat even better is that the game is designed for two player co-op in the form of both local couch co-op and online co-op. This creates opportunity for synergy between characters and allows you and a buddy to run and gun your way to victory with a variety of character mashups . I will be interested to see how the online plays out once the game is opened up to everyone and can only imagine the hours I will spend running through Tower 57 with some of my local buddies.

At the time of writing I have to say that Tower 57 has peaked my interest. It offers a lot of the core features that made some of the aforementioned titles so great while still managing to introduce its own take on the genre. If you grew up with a love for this style of game I highly recommend adding Tower 57 to your wish list. With its November 16 release date right around the corner, it would definitely make for a great early Christmas gift to yourself!

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