Towerfall is a classic couch co-op arcade game that pits up to 6 friends against each other in intense versus matches, that is the way the game was intended to be played and how you will enjoy it the most, but you can also team up with your friends against the CPU in co-op and time trial modes or play these modes solo.
The premise of the game is very simple, you are one of a number of archers including Madeline from the excellent Celeste. Armed with a trusty bow and 3 arrows you must defeat the competition on a single map screen before they kill you. The core mechanics are simple and accessible with only 3 buttons needed to play. Like every good multiplayer game though it’s much harder to master and there is a surprising amount of strategy involved.
You fire arrows using B whilst aiming with the Right Stick and a longer hold will result in a further shot, your arrows are slightly attracted to enemies but as you move around so quickly this doesn’t result in easy kills. You move around with the left analog stick and Jump with A, you can bounce off of walls and attempt to hang from a wall though you will slide down it. Double jumps are essential to survival as you will need to make it across platforms in order to take cover and get out of the firing line. Using L, you can dash in any direction by combining it with a Left Stick push, this can be done in the air and when it’s timed well you can even catch an enemies arrow mid-flight.
The maps are devious, wrapping back on themselves which adds to the hilarity and sneaky factors. Falling down a hole at the bottom will see you reappear at the top and stepping through the left side will see you emerge on the right. Some of the best battles involve shooting off-screen and having your well-timed arrow sneak up on your foe or jumping down only to reappear and shoot an arrow mid-flight through your opponent for the win.
Arrows are a limited resource, typically you will start with 3 and as you fire your arrows will stick into the walls where you shot them. This encourages you not to miss and puts you in the firing line when you do – to make it worse, anyone can pick up any arrow so its always a risk that you miss your opponent and they reclaim your arrows and strike you down with them.
On top of this, you have the treasure which randomly appears. It’s filled with a large number of arrow types and power-ups: from flaming and bomb arrows, to a shield or wings that let you fly around.
Combining all of these variables lead to surprising depth. The game’s pull is that anyone can pick it up and play but a match between experienced players will involve much more strategy. With that said, a lot of the fun it offer is through the randomness of luck or the chance that something you do might backfire – shoot directly upward and mistime your shot and it may very well fall on your own head for example.
The game’s variety leads to genuine laugh out loud moments when you see how a kill occurred on the action replay.
Once you have battled it out and fancy a change, you can utilize the variants system which is incredibly detailed, you can adjust to your heart’s content to get the perfect setup for you and your mates and make every battle feel unique.
Towerfall was originally released on the Ouya in 2013 and a year later Towerfall Ascension added much more content and found its way onto the PS4 and steam – fast forward another year and Dark World was released adding more again. All of this content is here so you might decide to jump into the co-op modes and take on hordes of enemies and bosses. You can do this alone along with the time trial mode. I found that playing solo was good for sharpening my skills and fun for a while but it’s all about multiplayer here and as a result, I wanted to sit down and play this on my TV as opposed to on the move.