Binge watching episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 have instilled in me a healthy appreciation of cheesy B-movies. Hacky stop motion, dudes in rubber suits with visible zippers, and big prop gorilla arms that you can see the puppeteer stick poking out of are always tons of fun to bear witness to. But the question is this: can we make a video game with the charm of a B-movie and the quality of a modern game? Well, they sure did try with The Deadly Tower of Monsters.
The Deadly Tower of Monsters, developed by ACE Team and produced by ATLUS, is a twin stick action game showcasing a pseudo-60’s sci-fi shlock movie of the same name. The plot, little of it there is, details the exploits of space adventurer Dick Starspeed and his sidekick, Robot, the, um, robot. They crash land on the planet Gravoria, and upon the urgings of the evil Emperor’s daughter, Scarlet Nova, set out to free the populace and dethrone the cruel dictator. The story of the actual movie is completely nonsensical. The real story comes in the form of the commentary track that plays over the movie from its slightly crooked director, Dan Smith. As you progress through the game, Dan will tell all sorts of stories from the movie’s filming and reveal some of his rather questionable business practices, which in tandem with the movie’s cheesy dialogue, creates a surprisingly entertaining presentation.
But, of course, if we wanted just a movie, we wouldn’t have picked up a controller, and this is where things stall out a bit. The combat is extremely basic; dudes run at you, you can shoot em’, you can smack em’, or you can use a special ability on them. You can carry two guns and two melee weapons with you, and switch them for other weapons you pick up at armory stations, though to be honest, you get one of the best guns in the game very close to the start, so you probably won’t be using much else unless you personally feel like experimenting. Each of the three characters, Dick, Scarlet, and Robot, do have special abilities specific to them, but none of them have any major combat application, and are mostly just used for clearing obstacles. As you ascend the tower, enemies will sometimes fly up from the lower floors to shoot at you, and you need to aim over the edge and use a special rifle to shoot them down. This is fun at first, but it gets kind of annoying when enemies are flying up while you’re already dealing with a mob in front of you. Similar to the edge shooting, the game will sometimes have you base jump from the tower, either to chase down a falling boss monster or to get back to the ground level to grab something you missed. Again, this is neat at first, but there’s no real special mechanics to jumping, and you don’t even have that much control over yourself while falling, and it devolves into an occasional chore rather than a gameplay feature.
The game isn’t bad, it’s just dull. The major saving grace of The Deadly Tower of Monsters is its presentation, not its gameplay. If it wasn’t for the amusing tales of the director, I probably would have gotten bored of it long before I finished it. And that’s another thing: the game is notably short. I beat it in two sittings, clocking in at about three hours total. There’s collectables and such if you’re a completionist, but even those would probably only squeeze out another hour, tops.
It’s honestly a shame, because I was really looking forward to this game. I love cheesy B-movies, and this sounded like a cool idea on paper, but a great presentation is canceled out by dull, repetitive gameplay. As a production, it’s very entertaining, but as a game, it’s, as TV Frank once said, “a big ‘so what’”. The game is, as of writing, on sale for $9.89, 34% off its normal price, and will be until February 2nd, but even that might be a bit too much. If it hits maybe five bucks some time in the future, then it might be worth picking up, but for now, I’d say go to a different theater.