Review: TowerFall Ascension (PS4)

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Title: TowerFall Ascension
Format: PlayStation Network Download (PS4) (330 MB)
Release Date: March 11, 2014
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Matt Thorson
Original MSRP: $14.99
ESRB Rating: T
TowerFall Ascension is also available on PC and Ouya.
The PlayStation 4 version of the game was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy.

Every event that I’ve attended in the past few months has always included heated and vocal battles huddled back in a corner. When I finally investigated the noise, I found something that would become an instant addiction. TowerFall was originally an exclusive on the much-maligned Ouya, but in many circles is considered a must-buy for those that actually have one. It offered a 2-4 player on-the-couch frenzy in short bursts, and completely captured lightning in a bottle in terms of fun factor. Now, as it moves to the PS4, a good amount of content has been added, including a mode that allows 1-2 players to work through a campaign of sorts.

Gameplay:
Gameplay is simple with a ton of subtle nuances that you’ll learn as you continue to play. There are 3 multiplayer modes available: Last Man Standing, Team Deathmatch (only worth playing with 4 players), and Headhunters. You’ll also be able to set if you want a quick match or “Epic”, which changes the number of kills before the match ends or how many coins are needed in Last Man Standing. Furthermore, you’ll be able to fine-tune your match settings with the ability to set a myriad of variants such as disallowing certain powerups, or only playing in darkness. The amount of variants is pretty immense, and some additional variants can be unlocked as you continue to play the game.

Based on 4 people playing for the purpose of this review, you’ll start in random spots on each level, and your main goal is to take the other players out before they do the same to you. You’ll start with 3 arrows each, and initially you’ll have 4 archers to choose from, with more available as you unlock them. Levels are all one screen in size, and many have openings on the sides or top and bottom. You use these openings to get to the other side of the level quickly, so if you drop through an opening in the floor, you’ll appear at the top, likewise from side-to-side.

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The action is crazy and the rounds don’t last very long, which just adds to the tension as you try to defeat your foes. At first, you’ll probably only try to take them out with your arrows, which you use R3 to aim. But then, as you keep playing, you’ll notice a lot more is taking place. Jump on your opponent’s head like an Italian plumber and that eliminates them. Bump into an opponent and you steal one of his or her arrows. Use L2 to dodge (which can be cancelled by quickly hitting L2 again), and if you dodge through an arrow, you’ll grab it out of the air. You can wall-jump, and if you hold Down while falling, it will increase the speed of your descent. Luckily, when you finish a round a hints box appears to give you these juicy details, or just learn it on your own as you accidentally pull a cool move off.

Throughout your matches, small and large treasure chests will randomly appear. Run over them to unlock powerups and new arrows such as a laser, bombs and even brambles. The variety adds to the strategy and even each tower changes your gameplay options wildly. Some will have a spiked ball swinging in the middle of the level while others endanger you with blocks moving back and forth, all with the single purpose of slamming you into the wall. Also, some of these treasure boxes will release a bomb and you only have a second or two to get far enough away from the blast. In a short period of time, we were all pretty surprised at the depth and variety in the items and level-specific dangers, all of which force you to change your gameplay.

Unlike many multiplayer games of this type, you’ll also unlock new towers and usable players. Quite honestly, we couldn’t figure out if we did something specific to trigger the unlocks or if they were timed somewhat. If you watch the included live stream replay, you’ll see what I’m referring to. The characters themselves don’t seem to have any difference in abilities or speed, but the difference in appearance is essential for knowing where you are in this fast-paced gameplay.

Quest mode, which has been added on top of what the original game had, is aimed specifically at those that may not have any friends to play this game with because, unfortunately for people like me, there’s no online gameplay. Quest mode can be played by one or two players locally, and acts more like a campaign than simply an arena-type fighter. You’ll be pitted against AI enemies, which vary pretty wildly. It’s a lot of fun, and the challenge ramps-up quickly, especially in single-player. It’s very good that this mode was added, and is another way to unlock some cool stuff.

Visuals:
As has been the trend in the past year or so, the visual style is probably best described as 12-bit. It definitely looks better than a NEW game, but doesn’t have the sharpness of the 16-bit systems. Don’t be fooled because there are a lot of small details that truly impress. Lighting is fantastic, especially when the level goes dark, and pixelated bits flying everywhere add to the kinetic feel of the game as a whole. One aspect that we all noticed, and really loved, is the gruesome yet subtle ways that you character can die, including being impaled on a wall with an arrow or a bomb completely scorching your body as it falls to the ground. Unlike many of the games that use this retro-inspired look, TowerFall Ascension excels at bringing a modern feel to the gameplay while displaying the quick and visceral action without a hiccup. The artwork is fantastic, and is quite pleasing to behold.

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Audio:
First, the soundtrack, which is excellent! Unlike most games that utilize the retro look, TowerFall Ascension’s soundtrack isn’t a group of chiptunes. Instead, the composition and clarity are pretty great, with just a touch of retro aspects. It’s so good that I’ve even purchased it for continued listening at my convenience. (Find it here)

Sound effects are equally well done, and like the visuals, even include a subtle feeling of unadulterated violence.

Online/Multiplayer:
As I mentioned above, this is my ONLY complaint about the game, in that it only offers local multiplayer. I understand the reasoning, but for me not having any gaming friends where I live, it’s impossible not to complain about this. Past that though, this game is made for multiplayer, and it does it better than most games in our world. The action is fast and furious with tight controls, but at the same time is fully accessible to any gamer at any skill level. Start playing this with friends and you won’t stop until your thumbs stop working. The words “just one more” will be uttered in great numbers by everyone playing.

Conclusion:
Other than my one complaint I can’t overstate how wonderful this game is in a group. If you’ve watched the replay video above, you can hear how much fun we had playing. We even played for another 3 or 4 hours after we finished that stream and it got even better.

TowerFall Ascension will become a staple wherever people get together to play games, or even in that dark corner of a party where the geeks will eventually congregate. This game is a gem, that multiplayer lightning in a bottle than many aspire to, but very few succeed in. Prepare for absolute fun.

Score:
9.5

* All video used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Elgato Game Capture HD. All screenshots were obtained from the official website.

Written by Glenn Percival

Glenn Percival

Just a guy that loves games, movies, Golf, Football, and Baseball.

Podcast Co-Host, Editor-in-Chief, Video Producer, and whipping-boy

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  • Lex Ocsic

    Great review! I cannot wait for Tuesday to finally play Towerfall. Having played the game, are bots available in Versus Mode (e.g. Smash Bros)? I have a feeling I’ll need to train my inner-archer before I play with my siblings.

    • http://psnation.org Glenn Percival

      No, you’ll have to play Quest mode, which is actually quite fun.

  • acidbitter

    Can’t wait for this. Played it on my friend’s OUYA and it really is amazing. So glad it’s coming to PS4 so I can get it. ^_^

  • PhantomVash808

    I can’t wait to play this & Samurai Gunn.

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