Online multiplayer has become the staple of social gaming, moving steadily away from older times when four friends would barrel uncomfortably into one bedroom to deliver cheeky banter to each other instead of the cheap verbal abuse from distant voices, more associated with modern internet gaming. TowerFall Ascension finds its way onto PlayStation 4 and strides gloriously out into the unknown with the quest of rekindling those unique moments that only local multiplayer can offer, but is sadly held back by an industry that refuses to acknowledge its battle cry.
Game: TowerFall: Ascension
Developer: Matt Thorson
Publisher: Matt Thorson
Reviewed on: PlayStation 4
The simple fact of the matter is, TowerFall Ascension is genuinely good fun if you can muster up extra controllers and enough motivation either in your household or amongst your circle of friends to group up and give it some playtime. Essentially being a single-screen brawler involving a limited supply of arrows and some zippy control movement, the kind of moments you can witness are a stark reminder of bygone times that live in the memory of some lucky gamers; the early Mario Karts, the Goldeneyes, the Smash Brothers of this world.
It’s the archery that makes the game what it is. A limited supply of ammo and a game changing mechanic of being able to catch or collect any foreign arrows lodged into enemies or walls is the fuel that drives every player to be constantly on the move. Moving has been made pretty enjoyable itself, too. Wall jumping, dashing (that retrieves incoming arrows if timed well) and that classic pastime of bouncing off opponents heads to kill them means that staying still isn’t an option – at least, not if you want to succeed.
Visuals and sound are decidedly 8-bit and look great in their bright, colourful execution that seems to follow a long line of similarly styled indie titles that are charming to everyone but those who have no affinity to retro-gaming. There’s an absolute plethora of similar maps all offering a classic platforming spin with walls to bounce off and linking tunnels (leave one side of the map, appear on the other) that have you watching every inch of the screen rather than just your own vicinity. Keeping focus on the entire screen is the challenge that often ends up testing patience – unless you’re the smartass using the tunnel to achieve an advantage of course, then it’s completely rewarding much to your fellow gamers’ annoyance.
The multiplayer is at its very best with the versus mode, and even the co-op quest has its merits despite harbouring far less longevity and appeal. However, problems arise when it comes to approaching the game solo. Whilst the controls still feel snappy and the game still retains some method to its madness, the charm of gameplay and even some of its most stand out mechanics become absent, namely the arrow catching. Enemy killing and dodging quickly becomes laboursome and you’ll find little appeal playing the game by yourself as you’ll never create the same kind of moments you might with the local multiplayer.
During the review I managed to muster up 3 people to play with, and enjoyed every second. Unfortunately, you can’t help but feel that the industry no longer supports this kind of play since the internet tore down barriers and created multiplayer convenience – love it or hate it. The people who have fond memories of local multiplayer as kids are now older, with far less time and far too many obligations to indulge in a game like this; almost to the point where, and I say this begrudgingly, TowerFall Ascension needs an online multiplayer mode, even if to just be experienced by the majority on a regular basis.
This isn’t because the local game isn’t good enough with TowerFall Ascension because it is, it’s fantastic, but the majority of the gaming world will pass it by. As a gamer who has the fondest memories of grouping with friends to play, that thought saddens me deeply. In conclusion, if you’ve got the inclination and the company to play this as intended, grabbing this fun little brawler is a no brainer. However, anyone intending to tackle this alone will tire of its over-simplicity quickly, and as a result should probably avoid it altogether.