Like many who grew up watching Mystery Science Theater 3000, I have an appreciation for films that are so bad that they end up being endearing. The 1950s were the glory years for these so called B movies and as someone who has seen Plan 9 from Outer Space way too many times, I have a certain nostalgia for the time period. If you’re like me, then you’ll love the premise behind ACE Team’s The Deadly Tower of Monsters, an over-the-top action game that is full of campy movie tropes.
The Deadly Tower of Monsters plays like a pretty standard isometric shooter. The player gets to guide space explorer Dick Starspeed through dangerous areas filled with a variety of monsters from dinosaurs to robotic monkeys, and will use a variety of guns and melee weapons to make sure they come out unscathed. While players can use the right stick to aim, there is also an automatic lock-on that makes the combat pretty easy to get through.
While the combat is simple, that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun. It always feels satisfying and enemies later on will require specific strategies to defeat. This adds some thinking to what is mostly mindless fun. There are also plenty of different weapons to unlock, and they keep getting more ridiculous as you get deeper into the game.
Since Dick Starspeed is equipped with a jetpack, there is also plenty of exploration to be had in this open world adventure. The game world is very vertical in design, hence the titular tower, which means you can jump off the edge of a platform at any time, and fall all the way down to the bottom. That doesn’t mean you’ll need to backtrack, though, as a convenient teleport system allows you to quickly change areas. It’s a joy to explore the game world, and there are plenty of hidden collectibles to reward the player for being curious.
Despite there being plenty of action, the real focus of The Deadly Tower of Monsters is the story. While the main plot is purposefully filled with sci-fi nonsense, it’s presented in a very unique way. Instead of having players just shoot their way through a ridiculous world, ACE Team instead presents the game as a film that is receiving a director’s commentary audio track for its upcoming DVD release. This means that throughout the entire game, players get to hear commentary from the film’s delusional director Dan Smith.
A lot of the commentary is used to flesh out the ridiculous world you are in. You’ll learn about the actors playing the game’s three playable characters, who each have their own abilities, and how set-pieces were created for this dated sci-fi film. For example, the dinosaurs in the game that move erratically are that way due to the limitations of stop-motion animation. These little touches really make it feel like you’re peeking in on a low budget film set.
The game also takes some cues from The Stanley Parable and will comment on the player’s actions. If you spin the right stick around and cause your player to go in circles, you’ll hear Dan Smith talk about how spinning was all the rage on the set. Leave the screen still long enough, and you’ll overhear the director boasting about how artistic his long shot is. The attention to detail is really impressive, and the depth to the commentary track is a definite highlight here.
A lot of The Deadly Tower of Monsters‘ charm is in how it’s presented as a low budget film. The dialogue is wonderfully written terribly, and an effect that makes the screen look like a VHS release is applied to give it a retro aesthetic. It isn’t often that a game’s presentation ends up being the stand out quality, but it absolutely is the case here. If it wasn’t wonderfully applied, we’d be looking at an average shooter. Instead, we have a game that is brimming with personality and one that drives you to keep on playing.
It won’t take too long to finish up The Deadly Tower of Monsters, though, as it only takes about four hours to complete the game. While that may seem short, anything longer may have been stretching the jokes out a bit too thin. Just like a good B movie, ACE Team has created a game that’ll make you laugh all the way to the end, and you won’t ever wonder what the run time is due to boredom. Props to the Chilean developer for delivering a tightly designed experience with no filler, something I’ll take that over a game that overstays its welcome any day.
The Deadly Tower of Monsters is an incredibly confident game. The developer knew exactly what they wanted to deliver and absolutely nailed it. While the gameplay isn’t revolutionary, the presentation is some of the best I’ve ever seen. This parody of B movies manages to be a resounding success as it’s both fun to play and an exemplary hilarious experience.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version, which we were provided with.
The Deadly Tower of Monsters is pretty much an interactive B movie from the 1950s. If you like campy dialogue and wacky enemy designs, then you can't go wrong by spending an afternoon with this one.