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Bullet Hell Bonanza: Tower of Guns Review
As I blasted my way through Tower of Guns, there was one time when I walked into an empty room. I looked around, trigger finger hovering impatiently over the R2 button, but there was nothing to be seen. As I took a step forward, the room burst into life as a turret spawned opposite me. Suddenly, an elephant sized bullet is being hurtled into my screen. As I jump out of the way, I attacked my R2 button to unleash my own ammunition on the turret and am greeted by ten more trigger happy turrets. Bullets ranging from the size of a regular bullet to the aforementioned elephant begin to fly across the room, with explosions following in their wake. This is Tower of Guns and it is crazy.
Tower of Guns, a first-person shooter in the bullet hell subgenre, is developed by a one-man team: Terrible Posture Games. Joe Mirabello, the man behind it all, used to work for “big fancy professional studios,” as he puts it. Mirabello had become a little jaded of big game development studios and has embarked to create his own games. He describes his first, Tower of Guns, as a “Lunch Break FPS,” designed to be played and completed in short bursts.
On paper, it has an exciting premise. Players start, shoot some stuff, avoid a hilarious amount of bullets and bombs, die, and then replay in a different tower layout. Imagine Doom crossed with Rogue Legacy. Whilst it takes the best ideas from both these games, Tower Of Guns doesn’t execute them to the same high standard. It isn’t a bad game, far from in fact, but it could have been so much better.
Blasting through the levels, like a jet-packed bull in china shop, is bloody fun. There is no denying the giddy pleasure of jumping around and shooting enough bullets at each enemy to arm a small nation. Meanwhile, bombs are exploding around you like a personal firework display with each level providing more explosions than the one before. There is a brilliant madness that is contagious, making it hard to get bored. It is sad, however, that the weapons are so unsatisfying to shoot, the thrill of the game almost forfeited.
Your weapons start off with weak sound effects, making the gun sound as though it were made to shoot bread at ducks when you go for a morning stroll around the pond. You never feel dangerous with them. You can level them up by picking up blue cards dropped by fallen enemies which automatically improve damage and rate of fire. Enemies can be dispatched quickly, when you get the max level of 5, but you still feels like you are shooting a water gun. New weapons can be unlocked by completing certain challenges, ranging from a razor-disk launcher to a machine gun, but all are not as weighty as one would like.
Reaching the maximum weapon level can be achieved very quickly and it also resets upon death with your progress through the tower. However, it can just as easily be downgraded by taking damage. This unorthodox mechanic is excellent and is much more important than your health bar. As I said before, weapons can easily take down hordes of enemies once leveled up, but if you are constantly taking damage, you will never get there. It doesn’t change the game, you are still trying to dodge a ton of bullets, but there is more consequence than just losing health and makes your near miss experiences that bit more dramatic.
The randomised levels also keep things interesting by sticking together pre-made rooms with no apparent reasoning, like a baby playing with Lego for the first time. It keeps Tower of Guns from feeling static and is by far the best feature of the game. Every time you play, it is a different tower to conquer and feels like a unique challenge. You can’t pick up from where you left off or respawn where you died, so if you find a specific tower arrangement easy, you better make the most of it. And you will. Knowing that dying is a reset to your progress pushes you on and makes every victory sweeter than the last.
Throughout the tower, you will encounter some of the easiest boss fights you will ever fight in your life. A boss fight can feel like a relief at times, as they are easier than a lot of the normal stages, which can be packed with more enemies than you can shake a randomly generated stick at. Boss fights can often be overcome by running around it in a circle, stopping every now and then to avoid a bomb or bullet. Whilst there are various boss types, most are spinning tops with guns strapped in every feasible location, vomiting out bullets in every direction possible. They can feel uninspired and boring, but a handful are an enjoyable test of your skills.
A small selection of perks can also be unlocked, giving slight bonuses such as no fall damage and triple jump. Changing your perk each play through, along with weapon type, can improve replay value and has a more noticeable effect on how you play than the latter. The perks that prevent environmental damage, from spikes and lava, and the aforementioned triple jump allow you to reach secret areas for bonus points and other perks that you can pick up along the way. Again, it stops each round being a repeat of the last and makes every run of the tower feel like a fresh experience.
There is also a story threaded through each round of the tower which changes each time you play it. Once I was a little girl being sent to the tower by my creepy, suspicious Uncle; in another, I was a dude trying to drop off his recycling but accidentally walked into the tower instead. They are completely bizarre but pulled off well as they aren’t taken seriously. The characters in the set story are funny and give a little, if completely nonsensical, context to what you are doing.
Tower of Guns is a fun game with a lot of replay value, borrowing bits from great games to create something almost great. If the shooting was more satisfying (it is an FPS after all) I would be shouting from the rooftops about it. It is over the top and silly in every sense which keeps it from being boring for a good time. Dodging hundreds of bullets whilst spraying your own back in the same general direction never gets old too. Tower of Guns is great fun for hour long blasts in afternoons when you want a quick fix of action, but it doesn’t tower above the other shooters already available.
This review is based on a retail copy of Tower of Guns, developed by Terrible Posture Games on the Playstation 4.