Imagine a game where you can run around a map at speed, shooting arrows at up to four friends, only your ammo is finite (you get three arrows), and you have to collect it when you miss. Imagine further that the controls are simple, so the game is easy to pick up and play, and that you have an evade button, which means things are even more manic when you get going.
Sounds good, right? Because that’s what Towerfall Ascension is, and by thunder is it a triumph.
It’s ridiculous with friends, and that’s fundamentally the only real issue with Ascension on PlayStation 4: even if you do have the friends to play locally, it’s going to cost you a fortune in controllers unless all of you already own one. But that’s completely unfair on Towerfall, because it’s a couch multiplayer game, with no online play whatsoever, and to rip on it for being what it is, well, that’s like complaining about Killzone having guns in it.
And it’s to Matt Thorson’s huge credit that Towerfall Ascension goes far beyond being just a couch multiplayer game, including a full single player (or co-op, if you fancy) campaign that helps to teach you the mechanics, as well as a time trial mode that allows you to change things up with speed running maps.
But honestly, the most important message that you take away is that Towerfall is just bags of fun, and that is at the core of everything it sets out to do. If you want to just bound around the arena and shoot willy-nilly at everyone else, you can do that, but there’s a skill to proceedings, and the better players will be able to catch an arrow and fire it right back at their would-be murderer.
Being of the bow and arrow persuasion, you’d think that meant most of your time would be spent in ranged combat, but far from it; you might end up face to face, ploughing point blank arrows through your best friend’s face. This will even happen by accident, because you’ll be moving around the map at such a pace that half of the fun is an accidental kill, resulting in hilarious laughter. Such is the retro-look, too, that all ages can get in on the fun. It’s also a great spectator sport, as everyone can understand what is going on – and let’s face it, laughter is contagious.
There are PS4-specific features, such as the colour bar glowing to represent each of the four playable characters, and audio cues coming from the DualShock 4’s speaker, but they’re very much peripheral to the main event: playing the game – and there’s little more fun in life than mistiming a jump only to land on your friend’s head, thus registering a kill in the process, Mario-style. Nowhere is safe in Towerfall; death comes from everywhere.
You could compare Towerfall to other games, and indeed there seems to be a slight renaissance of this kind of game. With Gauntlet coming back, and Samurai Gunn offering a similar take, the closest comparison in terms of sheer speed and fun is Nidhogg, only this has four players and a full single player and co-op mode. On top of that, there are options to change up the mechanics further, altering the standard arrows to bombs, for example. You can imagine the carnage, right?
VERDICT: Towerfall knows exactly what it is, and though some may bemoan the lack of online play, it just wouldn’t be the same with it. If you’re buying it to play alone, you’re not going to get the benefit of the full experience, but if you have friends and a few controllers, you’ll be hard pushed to find a better multiplayer experience around at the moment.
SUPERB. This is the mark of greatness, only awarded to games that engage us from start to finish. Titles that score 9/10 will have very few problems or negative issues, and will deliver high quality and value for money across all aspects of their design.
Review code provided by publisher.