I think everyone has seen a B movie at some point or another. Some would argue that their low budget equates to an equally low quality movie, but I’d disagree – there’s a certain charm to these movies that has earned them their place in cinema history. Whilst any genre can be considered a B movie, it’s the sci-fi classics that most movie fans will remember; the likes of It Came From Outer Space, Them and Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space Space may seem woeful to some, but any movie-goer can appreciate them with the right mindset.
Whilst B movie vibes have been explored in video games previously (Destroy All Humans more recently, It Came From The Desert if you want to look a little further back), none have done so quite as well as The Deadly Tower Of Monsters. The game plays like an isometric twin stick shooter with some melee action thrown in for good measure and has you scaling a deadly tower, taking down hordes of grotesque creatures ranging from apes to aliens. What’s most charming about the game though is that it plays out like an actual B movie, with the movie’s director offering narration in the style of a ‘director’s commentary’ option you’d find on a DVD’s extras menu.
The Deadly Tower Of Monsters places you in the role of Dick Starspeed as he tries to save an ape race from the tyranny of an oppressive Emperor – to do so he must work his way up the titular ‘Deadly Tower Of Monsters’ and face the Emperor in an epic showdown. Dick isn’t alone on his adventure though, with the Emperor’s own daughter, Scarlet Nova, and Dick’s trusty companion (and aptly named) Robot helping out along the way. The story follows a standard B movie sci-fi plot, with Dick coming up against a variety of different types of enemies and evil schemes along the way.
The main story offers a context to the tale, but most of your enjoyment of the narrative will come from the director’s commentary and the breaking of the fourth wall. The script is very well written and will keep you entertained from start to finish, with the director’s explanations of typical video game tropes such as gold disappearing as you pick it up and the restrictive use of one character at a time working perfectly within the movie based premise of the game. There’s even room for movie based jokes too, such as scenes skipping when the director wants to avoid explaining a scientific anomaly or the screen going black and white during some scenes due to ‘budget cuts’. It’s entertaining, and certainly adds to the B movie charm that the game has in abundance.
The performance of the voice actors is great and really brings the game’s script to life, making the characters feel believable – especially the director. There’s something about his performance that sounds so much like… a director. Maybe it’s the impression I’ve got from interpretations of directors that I’ve seen in movies and TV shows in the past, but that arrogant, selfish stereotype is perfectly represented here.
The Deadly Tower Of Monsters plays out like a typical twin stick shooter with the left stick controlling your character’s movement and the right stick controlling the direction that they shoot in. You also have access to melee attacks and the ability to roll to dodge enemies. Each character has a different selection of character-specific special abilities too – for example, Dick has access to land mines that can obliterate foes whereas the more technologically advanced Robot is able to slow down time momentarily. These abilities can be used in the heat of combat, but they’re also used to get past obstacles throughout the game. They’re not all available from the start though – some abilities won’t unlock until you progress further into the game.
There’s also a ton of different weapons available to you throughout the game, both for melee combat and ranged. Some of the guns are insane with the likes of a frog gun available alongside a rocket launcher and flamethrower. The same can be said for the melee weapons – they all have a sci-fi feel with laser swords mixing with tridents. You’re able to collect cogs throughout the game that can be used to upgrade your weapons into stronger, cooler looking variants.
You’re also able to upgrade your character’s stats by completing mini objectives and side missions throughout the game. Some are as simple as beating a game boss, whilst others require you to complete a set task such as shooting a certain amount of targets or free-falling through a certain amount of rings. There’s plenty of side missions to complete and tt’s worth doing them too – besides the boost of having your character’s stats upgraded, there’s also some cool things to uncover that you wouldn’t have come across otherwise.
There’s plenty of different varieties of enemies to take on throughout The Deadly Tower Of Monsters. There’s the evil apes, dinosaurs, aliens, invisible men, robots… if you’ve seen it in a sci-fi movie, it’s going to be here. Impressively, most enemies manage to feel unique – they aren’t just simple re-skins, but instead their own unique entities with specific attacks. There’s also the cool boss fights that break up gameplay, requiring both the efficient use of your combat skills and wit to take down. Sure, it’s mainly just a case of learning the boss’ attack pattern and then taking advantage of it to beat them down, but it’s still awesome to take on a giant King Kong-esque gorilla.
One cool addition is the use of the vertical plane that the game adopts. Seeing as the game has you working up a tower, you’re often left taking on enemies that are seeking you out from below. This leads to some vertical shoot outs that see your character aiming down the tower, taking your shots with a bit more precision by giving you control over both your character’s movement and the aiming reticle. This may sound like nothing special, but the way the game shows you the heights you’ve scaled as you take down these foes is impressive.
The Deadly Tower Of Monsters is generally fun to play throughout, but it does come with a few flaws, most noticeably the frame rate. Whilst it doesn’t make the game unplayable by any means, there were moments during hectic scenes where the game would slow down and feel quite choppy. The game is also victim to a few design flaws, such as weapons swapping out when you pick up a new one. I’m nitpicking, sure, but when I’m using a weapon it feels like it would make more sense that any newly collected weapons would swap out with your secondary weapon as opposed to the one you have equipped.
Graphically, The Deadly Tower Of Monsters isn’t a powerhouse by any means. The game looks nice enough with a vibrant and interesting world to explore, but there’s nothing on display that will really ‘wow’ you. Everything is technically sound though, and the developers have made up for shortcomings with some really cool effects. Take some of the enemies for example – stop-motion was popular in classic B movies with monsters such as dinosaurs being poorly animated in a choppy fashion. The Deadly Tower Of Monsters adopts this style with some of the game’s foes and it works perfectly. Sure, it’s unusual and feels a little out of place compared to the normal movement of your character and other foes, but when you consider the circumstances that the developers have used it in it’s actually pretty charming.
There’s other neat additions too such as visible strings on flying enemies, lens flares showing finger prints on the camera lens and the option to either have a ‘DVD’ or ‘VHS’ quality filter applied to the screen. The Deadly Tower Of Monsters takes its B movie vibe seriously, and it should be commended for the clever methods it uses in doing so.
It won’t take you too long to complete The Deadly Tower Of Monsters – I managed it in roughly three and a half hours, but I didn’t complete all of the side quests. There isn’t a whole lot here to justify a second playthrough either, with no kind of ‘new game plus’ or additional difficulties to play through. Fortunately, the game is fun to play so that could entice players to return for more – however, those gamers who want a bit more bang for their buck may be left a little disappointed.
I’ve often heard B movies described as something that is ‘so bad that it’s good’, but that isn’t the case here – The Deadly Tower Of Monsters is just simply good. It takes the B movie theme and embraces it perfectly, offering a charming experience that will keep you entertained from start to finish. Sure, there’s some flaws to be found and the short running time is a shame, but you shouldn’t let that put you off from an adventure that is wacky, outrageous but most importantly, fun.
– Enjoyable gameplay with varied combat
– Cool B movie references in the graphics with stop-motion and visible strings
– The director’s commentary is fantastic
– Vertical shooting is a neat addition
– Frame rate can get pretty choppy at times
– The short running time and lack of replay value