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Tower 57

Platform(s): Amiga, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action
Publisher: 11 bit studios
Developer: Pixwerk
Release Date: Nov. 16, 2017


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Amiga/PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'Tower 57'

by Thomas Wilde on June 27, 2017 @ 2:00 a.m. PDT

Tower 57 is a top-down twin stick shooter with 16-bit inspired pixel art, destructible environments, and a heavy focus on co-op.

"Okay, so now you have to go over there and buy new legs," the producer told me.

Sold. I'm on board with this. Sometimes, it's the little things.

Tower 57 is a top-down, co-op, twin-stick pixel-art shooter that's inspired by old Amiga games, particularly The Chaos Engine, to which it feels like a sort of spiritual successor. It's the kind of game that has a twisted sense of humor about its own level of violence, where your character's limbs are only tentatively attached to his or her body, mechanized replacements are as close as the nearest vending machine, and death is extremely cheap.

At the start of Tower 57, you select three characters from a roster of six, each of whom enters play with their own trademark weapon, backup weapon, and a screen-clearing special attack. Right now, the Scientist is my favorite, as she's got a slow-firing railgun that can wreck anything in the demo in, at most, three shots. I suspect the one that will see the most play, however, is the Diplomat, who's basically a drunken, angry alternate-universe Abraham Lincoln, armed with a flamethrower and explosive throwing eagles. He's a danger to himself and others!

Your roster of characters is also your extra lives, and once all three of them have died, your game is over. You can get them to respawn at set intervals, or switch characters from a specific level feature that looks a little like an elevator. In general, however, it's the kind of game that draws its difficulty not from overwhelming numbers of enemies, but from how viciously it punishes your mistakes. Even an incidental hit from a run-of-the-mill monster can cost you 25% of your health bar, and friendly fire is a constant concern, even from yourself.

The game is set in a Victorian "dieselpunk" dystopia, where most of what's left of humanity is crammed into giant Megatowers that dot the landscape. Tower 57 is the home of Grutin Inc., a research corporation and military contractor. Its new head of operations, a man known only as the Supervisor, has shut down its productions entirely, which is causing a worker's revolution. Without Grutin's supplies, the entire region may destabilize, which means the Supervisor has to go. Your team is thus sent in, as Operation Wind of Change, to kill the Supervisor and restart Grutin's production, starting at the sewer underneath the tower and working your way up.

The first level was available to play at E3, and as a demo for Kickstarter backers. It's an easy game to pick up; you move with WASD, fire with the mouse buttons, and aim with a reticle that you turn with the mouse. Everything is smoothly animated and fast-moving; the environment blows apart as you fight, enemies explode into showers of body parts and coins, and enemies can teleport in or pop out of the background without warning. With one player, it's challenging, and with two, it's utterly chaotic.

As part of the tutorial, there's a moment when you lose your original legs, just to show you how to purchase new replacement limbs from nearby vending machines, which also serves as an upgrade system. In co-op, you can actually carry a legless buddy on your back, and they can still independently target and shoot enemies as a sort of turret backpack of death, but you need to quickly get them somewhere where they can buy new legs before they bleed out. You can also lose one or both arms, which seems to be a random result from certain enemies' attacks; I'm not sure what exactly triggers dismemberment, but it's an extra reason to avoid getting tagged in the first place.

(I'm not sure what's weirder: hopping around as a limbless torso, or this not being the first game I can think of where I can hop around as a limbless torso.)

Tower 57 is another indie game that got funded via crowdfunding, and like a lot of those games, it's a deliberate throwback to a past genre. It's basically the dream game of an Amiga owner circa 1993 or so, where it moves faster and plays smoother than any of those old games had the horsepower for. I've only played the first level, but as long as the ones after it maintain this level of polish and challenge, Tower 57 could be the next great indie co-op game.

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