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Falling From The Top Of The World: TowerClimb

Spikes...why'd it have to be spikes?

Cheerfully described as a “roguelike platformer”, TowerClimb is like Spelunky in reverse, although that’s not to imply it’s a copycat. It’s a compliment, and also the quickest way I can think of to describe TowerClimb’s abundance of style and the smartness of its execution. Currently in beta, the game throws the amusingly named stalwarts (Walter is my greatest climber) at the bottom of a randomly generated tower, filled with dangers ranging from the disjointed architecture itself to giant rats and bats. Jumping, climbing, hanging, fleeing – all are integral but the main thing to be done is to die. Paying $5 now provides immediate beta access and a copy of the game once it’s deemed ready for a full release. A trailer and more thoughts lie broken on the cold, hard floor below.

It’s the variety of things to do and be done in by that make the slow ascent as entertaining and surprising as it is. On my first attempt, the floor of the tower had strange vegetation growing on it. Jumping on top of the balloon-like pods caused them to break free, allowing me to ride them upward, guiding them by shifting my weight. Another time, within seconds of entering the damned place, the music became frantic as lava began to rise. A frantic chase ensued. Lava was first to the finishing line.

And there is a finishing line in each area, a door at a certain height which leads to the next section, switching the theme. Outrun the lava and you may find yourself in an area where the main difficulty is plotting a route across the sparse outcrops, or maybe you’ll be lucky and find potions galore, providing the ability to double- or triple-jump.

Management of resources is the key to success, along with thinking calmly about progress rather than frantically diving across gaps, which more often than not means you’ll be seeing one of the gloriously drawn “YOU HAVE DIED” images, which provide a more detailed image of the adventurer’s final moment, whether having his entrails devoured by a rat or preparing to meet the floor and scatter his component parts all over it.

I haven’t played enough to give an honest appraisal of how well balanced the game is yet, whether it’s merely unforgiving of mistakes or actually capable of constructing impossible edifices, but either way it’s tough as boot leather. I suspect I need to be more patient, as there’s no pressing need to climb quickly unless the lava is lapping at your feet, but I tend to rush for the top of the screen. Slow and steady is perhaps the way.

Whatever the case, in one brief morning play session, TowerClimb has provided more memorable moments than some games provide after days of dedicated play. Admittedly, I’m a sucker for this sort of thing and it’s presented extremely well, striving for the mythical and heroic even while acknowledging its own absurdity, particularly in the punctuation-mark emotions of the protagonists who are only capable of curiosity and alarm. Fitting feelings, because exploration and extinction are all that await.

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Adam Smith

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