Being a gamer encroaching on 30 I feel I’m at that stage in my life where I start questioning the younger generation. I look at trends like the insane popularity of a Fifa card game, and its influence on Youtube, I question the rise of MOBA’s and how I only found out what that was last year. My point is that I’m slowly but surely becoming a walking embodiment of the Four Yorkshiremen sketch from Monty Python. When I was a lad shooters were a challenge, there was none of this regenerating health, none of this handholding A.I. it was pure balls out, low gravity, always strafing, constant running, bullet dodging hell. Few games make me feel nostalgia in the way Tower of Guns has, it’s a blessing and a curse for the game, but one that brings back so many memories of the 90’s I might as well slip on my Adidas track suit and start praising the artistic credit of Bez’s maracas.
Tower of Guns features a tower, with guns inside. If you’re looking for more story that than then you’ll be sadly disappointed. The game is bare bones on its surface, it doesn’t try to pretend to be more, you in a first person view must take your one life, and your one gun, and make it from one floor to another pushing your way through a barrage of bullets. Autonomous guns and their comically oversized bullets are your enemy in this game, that and hubris and arrogance.
Each floor has a chosen theme, lava, cogs and clean sci-fi white. To describe this game as procedurally generated is slightly misleading. Although in it’s true sense it’s accurate, many will interpret that as being completely random, instead like a mix and match puzzle you’ll see similar rooms but connected in different combinations.
Aesthetically this game may as well be an extra mode on Gearbox’s Borderlands series, this is not to be seen as a negative. In this age of consistent pixel art or hyper realistic graphic from indie games it’s nice to see someone do something different. Dirty cell shading like Tower of Guns hasn’t been done much and so although it’s not entirely original, it is refreshing. Musically the soundtrack does the job of making you feel like a superhero badass as you jump through the air jumping 20 Bullet Bill sized pieces of ammunition that fly towards you. Epic is something I have avoided saying for the past decade thanks to its overuse by the uneducated and hipsters but in its true sense this soundtrack is epic along with the rest of the experience.
With rogue likes you need an incentive. Something that makes that permadeath a reasonable burden to bear, something that makes the difficulty progression and repeated visits to the main menu worthwhile. With Tower of Guns that reason is, well, guns. You start off with two weapons at your disposal, unfortunately you only have one pair of hands and no pockets so you can only take one gun with you on your slower ascent up this bemusingly laid out tower. The sting of only one weapon is an easy one to take, mainly because you won’t be alive long enough to get annoyed with it and secondly because of shiny blue tokens. When you kill an enemy three items have the potential to leave their mechanical carcass, firstly health, which is meagre and barely worth it, money for in run shops and finally blue tokens that will level up your weapon. Each weapon has a few levels to it, each increasing the damage, rate of fire and normally the bullets you shot. The pitiful pistol that you could start with is painfully bad, but it’s just there to get you through a few runs until you meet the requirement to unlock a better gun. Requirements range from Kill X Enemies to Shoot X Bullets, nothing too taxing but they will need a number of runs to meet.
The basic flow of the game goes as such: Enter room, guns spawn, bullets fly, you kill or run, reach another door, shoot door to open it, repeat. Obviously this is an over simplification of the system at hand here, but not by much. One run through this game will tell you how into it you are going to be, for me I was lucky enough to fluke a way below par time and meet a boss on my first go. And that’s the appeal for me, the bosses in Tower of Guns are epic, dumb and wonderful fun. Much like games of old on the Amiga where you were playing something like R-Type, you’d be going along and fighting normal enemies and then you enter a big room and your screen is filled with a huge behemoth of an enemy, that’s the joy Tower of Guns provides. Stupid boss names like Mama Spinbot, The Longhorn and my personal favourite Big Ol’ Spikeroom, really set the mildly immature tone of this game. If you’re not really going to bother with a story, why give personalities to these machines.
As well as the main campaign you also have an endless run mode, as opposed to the usual 7 floors, and Dice mode. Dice mode is my go to in this already random game. Each room has a different tweak to gameplay, draining health, super jumps, enemies drop lots or nothing or something inconvenient like always jumping. These are meant to be a silly addition to the game as an aside to the main run, but for me this element of danger makes it nearly essential to speed run as you often need to shift a buff (or curse) as quickly as possible. As well as guns, perks are unlocked throughout the game, some of these are similar to the Dice rolls but generally positive and within your control, they’re available for each mode and can add a certain must have ability like multiple jumps.
The simple fact is that Tower of Guns will divide many gamers. To play this game you need to ask yourself some questions, did you play first person shooters in the 90’s? Have you ever played and enjoyed a bullet hell game? Do rogue likes make you quiver with anticipation? Are you cool with dying 100 times in a computer game? If you answered yes to the questions then there is no reason to not try out Tower of Guns, if you were unsure about any of them then I say take a punt on Tower of Guns, it’s a tower, full of guns, what’s not to love?