Do you ever feel the need to shoot stuff in a simulation without having the pixelated blood of thousands of aliens and on your hands? Do you ever feel the need to take up small arms, but are sick of tearing apart cyber families? Won’t somebody please think of the virtual children? Thankfully, Joe Mirabello has you covered.
Tower of Guns is a roguelike FPS with randomly generated levels and enemy placement. To quote Joe;
“…It’s like Binding of Isaac, only less dead babies. Also it’s an FPS. Maybe it’s not like Binding of Isaac.”
It fills a void in the market that seems obvious: A pick-up-and-play FPS that’s different each time you play. The speed and general movement is in the vein of classic multiplayer shooters, like Unreal Tournament. The player moves fast and is able to shift direction mid-air. Perks acquired during the game can be stacked, enabling combinations like triple speed, quadruple jump and double enemy difficulty, depending on which of the cards you choose to pick up. Apart from occasionally dropping these bonuses, enemies explode in a shower of mechanical parts and colourful in-game currency: Red for health, yellow for cash and blue for gun upgrades. Guns have a maximum level of 5, but with certain upgrades can go higher, adding further levels as well as bullet rebound or extra explosive damage.
The first thing you’ll notice playing Tower of Guns is the graphical style. It has the same comic book appearance of Borderlands, but doesn’t manage to be quite as pretty. The pencil sketch shadings on every surface make it look like a graphic novel come to life. It’s fast paced enough that you probably won’t spend long admiring the level designs, but the lifts, gravity wells and lava make traversing the small arenas a lot of fun. Occasionally you’ll stumble across a room with a towering, moving mechanism that stands out as visually impressive. For a team of one, Joe has done a great job. Sound design was handled by his brother and each set of themed levels has an appropriate soundtrack to add mood to the firefights.
When showing it to a friend, his first thought was “…so it’s a 3D bullet hell shooter?” This isn’t far wrong. The abundant, but slow-moving projectiles, and even laser-beams in later levels are reminiscent of a scrolling shoot-em-up that’s been transposed to 3D arena shooter gameplay. The tight controls perfectly suit the twitch gameplay.
Continuing the shoot-em-up parallels are the boss levels that end each section of the tower. They are frantic exercises in shooting the glowing damage zones as quickly as possible while the room speedily fills with projectiles and drones with saw-blades. They’re over quickly and can often be less challenging than some of the rooms, depending on your luck.
It’s important to mention that each play-though allows you access to only one firearm. Be it the pizza thrower (that flings saw blades) or the “Egon’s Pride” (that fires a stream of pink projectiles), each gun caters to a different play-style. There’s no reloading. There’s no ammo. Holding down the fire button fires the weapon at maximum speed. This game isn’t so much about the guns you wield, but the guns that line the walls of the palace of pain.
Tower of Guns could have survived perfectly well without a story. For those interested, however, flavour text has been added which offers a random scenario justifying the player’s presence in this ludicrous locale. Sometimes you’re an heiress trying to claim your inheritance from a father who trained you in small arms. Other times you’re an 80 year-old woman trying to put out the recycling. I even stumbled across a discussion between the brothers who developed it, justifying design choices as I progressed from room to room. Similar jokes and references to pop culture and classic games abound in the loading screens and weapon selection menu.
This game delivers what it promises. It feels like a casual game that fits a niche where few options exist. It has colourful graphics, fun unlockables, but would be best enjoyed by a gamer with some experience of classic FPS games. If you’ve ever enjoyed Quake or UT, and felt that you’d like to jump around those arenas, complete with super speed and moving platforms, dodging waves of droids and giant bullets, then Tower of Guns is exactly the game for you. There’s no realism here. No camera bob. No realistic gravity. This is a casual game for the classic gamer.
At $10 on Steam, it’ll scratch your itch.