Review: Towerfall Ascension by Matt Thorson

Towerfall Ascension – What We Think:

An adaptation of Towerfall – originally an exclusive for the OUYA console – Towerfall Ascension adds some extra features to the local multiplayer PVP fragfest, bringing the larger offering to Steam and PlayStation 4. Time trials and a co-op quest mode make for impressive side dishes, but you’ll likely push them aside in favor of the main course once you unlocked all the bonuses.

Towerfall Ascension screen 1

Twitchy Trigger Finger

The core experience of Towerfall follows in the footsteps of multiplayer brawlers like the Super Smash Bros series, pitting up to 4 players on one console against one another in a last-man-standing contest. Each level contains an assortment of stages replete with platforms, traps and treasure chests full of bonus gear.

Each player selects an archer, and is allotted a finite number of arrows, depicted above his character sprite. Once an arrow is loosed, it flies until it hits either another player or a part of the scenery. Missing too many shots will mean having to successfully traverse the playfield to retrieve your arrows without being killed. Even if your quiver is depleted, you can dispatch a foe by landing on his head. The player who can survive the longest or make the most kills comes out as the victor.

Live To William Tell The Tale

You got a bead on your rival, and fired at his face, point blank. He’s done for…isn’t he? Don’t drop your bow just yet; players quick enough to hit the dodge button can either bolt quickly away from an attack, or grab an arrow out of the air, thus adding it to their inventory. Once you have a few players that have mastered these mechanics, matches can be drawn out into intense rallies that won’t end until someone trips up.

Bonus items can tip the scales in your favor; you won’t know what’s in a chest until it has been opened, but watch for drill arrows, bomb arrows and shields to make life seem even more unfair to the player who always seems to come in at 4th place. These power-ups are a double edged arrow sword, however; get caught in the destructive waves produced around the impact and you can just as easily fall prey to your own attack.

Towerfall Ascension screen 3

A Trial Called Quest

New to Ascension, Quest mode allows 1-2 players to team up against stages bursting with mobs. Though friendly fire is still a possibility, you can Koopa stomp without fear of squishing your teammate. Clear all foes to reach the next stage, and defeat the final challenge in each level to collect your spoils. This will also unlock new areas with higher difficulty levels. Once these have been cleared, there is little incentive to return, though the later worlds can be quite challenging, even with 2 players.

The added Time Trials mode sets up a room with a number of straw dummies and treasure chests. The clock starts as soon as you move, and your goal is to take out all the targets in as short a time as possible. Generally, to clear each “gold medal” time, you’ll have to find the preset path of least resistance. Much like the Quest mode, Once you’ve beat the set best score, it’s unlikely you’ll spend a great deal of time with these levels.

Quivering with Excitement

Ascension booms with gorgeous retro-themed sprites and sound design. Even with the low-res palette, the levels are diverse and gorgeous. The death animations, basic though they be, carry a lot of heft; it’s truly satisfying to watch as your shot affixes your foe to the wall, and it’s even cooler seeing it in the replay.

Towerfall Ascension screen 2

Meeting certain conditions will unlock additional archers. Spread throughout the various modes, you can eventually add four new playable characters to the roster.

Another little touch worthy of mention on the PlayStation 4 version: The game makes use of the Dualshock 4’s light bar, changing the color to reflect the character you’ve chosen. While it may be just a cosmetic nuance, bitter couch rivals can always keep track of who is playing who by following the colored lights. The sound effects for catch and dodge maneuvers also play on the controller’s built-in speaker.

An Arrow Escape

Towerfall Ascension is the type of game that shines should you manage to get 4 players together. A lot of fun can be had even with 2 players dueling to the death, but it can’t hold a candle to having a full roster of competitors. Unfortunately, it’s a strictly local affair, and unless something changes in a future patch, there are no non-player bots to be found.

It’s a drawback that is barely worth mentioning though, as Towerfall Ascension is meant to be played by a bunch of buds, all delighting in bringing about one another’s demise. It’s co-op multiplayer that requires lightning fast reflexes if you hope to emerge as the winner. Aim true, and let loose!

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Get Towerfall Ascension on Steam

Get Towerfall Ascension at the PlayStation Store (US Site)

Watch the Towerfall Ascension reveal trailer:

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