Is the Noid really the villain this time? Or is he the true hero we all need?
B-movies have an important role in cinema, as the movies you either love to hate or hate to love. The stereotypes of these cult classics, the bad special effects, the bad acting, and the bad direction. all the things that keeps critics’ noses firmly in the air and the film nerds cringing and laughing. These tropes have had effects on video games since their introduction, but what would happen if a game is made to lampoon and play off this formula? The Deadly Tower of Monsters sets out to create a twin stick style game based on a B-movie experience, right down to the VHS effects.
The theme and design of this game are tongue-in-cheek references to old, schlocky science fiction films that flooded the theaters in the 60s and 70s. Where this shines best is human-like enemies including lizard people and walking squids are represented by actors in rubber suits while larger monsters ranging from dinosaurs to the classic massive gorilla are stop motion animatronics a la Jason and the Argonauts or King Kong. This is a great way to make fodder enemies stand out, and makes boss battles a little more interesting to watch. Audio and soundtrack are just as classically designed, from the laser blasts to the bombastic movie score, like a special edition of Plan 9 from Outer Space. Woven into the game is a parody laden commentary track between the aging director of this film and the hotshot, young director interviewing him. It’s bad. Every imaginable low brow joke that could come from this genre about women’s place in films, paying staff, and cutting corners is there. It’s on by default, and I left it on in case it offered any semblance of humor, narrative or hints. It didn’t. Luckily, the game allows this feature to be deactivated allowing a less cluttered experience.
The protagonists are straight out of a sci-fi script: The dashing male lead, the femme fatale, and the Robot. Just, “the Robot”. Each character has their own special attacks and power ups that both enhance combat and solve puzzles and traps strewn throughout the game. These powers further play on the low-fi special effects feel of the game to humorous results; at one point, landmines are necessary to clear giant boulder props, which comically deflate instead of explode. Combat features both ranged and melee weapons ripped directly from old movie sets, such as laser blasters, Amazonian spears, a gun named after Tesla (because of course it’s named after Tesla). Weapon customization switches up the flow of combat and rewards finding parts and money strewn about. Upgrades are noticeably effective at enhancing combat and make enemies easier to handle.
The world itself, billed as an alien world inhabited by dinosaurs, talking chimps, and conveniently human rulers, is inconsistently interesting. Towards the beginning, the flat nature of the arenas makes for a droll experience, but as the game approaches the titular tower, the verticality adds a new layer to both platforming and combat. Climbing the tower stands out as the highlight of the game, as new paths and challenges open up with upgrades and exploration. The game makes it easy to recover progress on the climb with fast travel and checkpoints, as well as a quick do over button should you slip off the edge. Alleviating the pressure of messing up allows for more risk taking and encourages jumping off the tower for various rewards ranging from a free fall ring collecting mode, straight out of MDK, to laser trick shots off the side of the tower. Progression quickly falls to the wayside when chasing the extras, but the generous checkpoints prevent backtracking down the line. Jumping back and forth between story and side missions makes for an enjoyable, albeit short game experience.
In its efforts to mimic B-tier, popcorn flicks, this game comes off as its own kind of B-tier experience. The story is background noise, the characters are forgettable, and at times it’s bordering on passable. There’s just enough watercooler material here to keep things interesting, such as the monster effects and designs, and picking up the game for thirty minutes to an hour will bring you some rewarding moments and laughs. There’s a good amount of events around the map to keep things moving, and the game never punishes venturing off the path. Nothing about the main quest will draw you in, but between the side quests and the effects, there’s enough there to enjoy.