Well my second go at the twin-stick shooter genre at least went better than the last one (with Helldivers). Tower 57 is a Kickstarter-financed 2D-Pixel-art twin-stick shooter with an actual single-player campaign. But does that mean that I like it? Let’s see…
Better first Impression
Tower 57 has several nice aspects to it that I liked. To start out, the art looks nice, from the Kickstarter campaign on it already reminded me a bit of The Chaos Engine. The sprites aren’t very high-res, but they are well drawn, and the overall style is well done.
You can choose 3 out of the 6 characters at the start, each one with different starting weapons (besides the basic one) and abilities. In the levels there are 2 ways to switch between the characters: If you have at least 50% charge on your special attack bar, you can spend those 50% to switch to another char. Each char has their own health-bar and ammo, so at times it is essential to use this mechanic. The other way to switch is less recommended: If your current char dies, you have to switch to one of the remaining chars (as long as at least one is alive). There are special orbs that you can find in the levels that allow you to resurrect dead chars in between levels.
If your special attack bar reaches full charge, you can unleash whatever special your current char has, depleting it completely. This means you have to consider what to do depending on your current situation. Use your strong special to get rid of enemies in your way or keep the charge so you can switch characters if your health or ammo depletes too much.
Money collected in the levels can be spent on multiple things. There are vending machines for health/ammo refills, repairing/upgrading your limbs and several shops in between levels. Limb upgrades give you different advantages depending on the limb (more damage output, faster walking speed, better sprint etc.). Judging by the start, “too much money” likely isn’t a problem that you’re going to have in this game.
So, overall this gives Tower 57 a much better starting point compared to Helldivers for me. But sadly, there are still multiple things that I didn’t like too much, though these are mainly personal gripes, not necessarily negatives of the game for everyone.
There’s the ammo system for one: Every weapon (besides a basic gun that every character has) is limited in how much ammo it can have. Ammo crates are usually found in destructible boxes or can be bought at vending machines. The amount of destructible terrain that can potentially contain either health/ammo refills or some money essentially means that you’d need to switch to the basic gun all the time to clear out everything because otherwise you’re just expending ammo that you can’t really afford to. But the low rate of fire and damage output of the basic gun just makes it tedious.
Even “Normal” difficulty is pretty challenging for a casual player, going from the perspective of someone that hasn’t played many twin-stick shooters recently. Some rooms were pretty packed with enemies even in the starting area, at times a bit much for my liking. That coupled with the limb-mechanic (you can lose a limb depending on the enemy you fight/damage you take) that can cripple you even more in a bad situation and potentially running out of ammo makes for a rather “when it rains, it pours” kind of situation.
Will I continue?
Well… in short: I don’t know for sure. I might give it another go on “Easy” to see if that makes up for the annoyance of the mechanics, but I’ll take my time with that, the backlog is big enough 😉