By Joe Strange
There were a lot of reasons why the PS4 won out in the great Joe Strange console choice of mid 2014; fellow Axby writer James already had one, I had become disenchanted with the Halo and Fable franchises (the two reasons for me buying a 360 last generation) but most of all it was the plethora of indie support that the PS4 was offering.
When I set up my PS4, one of the first games I downloaded was Towerfall Ascension, I didn’t know an awful lot about it, but I’d seen the Achievement Hunters playing it and it looked incredible fun, and the design was both fun to look at and clear and really added to the gameplay
Towerfall Ascension heralds from Matt Thorson (Son of Thor, I assume) of Matt Makes Games and is an archery arena game wherein players pick an archer and takes on waves of distinctive enemies in a variety of creative stages, each with its own design, features and draws. Up to 2 players can participate in this campaign mode, and work together to take on the challenge. (and it definitely is a challenge, especially in Hardcore mode). Alternatively up to 4 players can duke it out between themselves in arenas themed from the campaign missions in incredibly fast paced, chaotic and balls to the walls fun matches.
Through the campaign, versus and trials (which sees a player hitting dummies as quickly as possible) players can unlock new characters and campaign missions, each character has a distinct character design as well as colour and sound effects (one of the neatest utilisations of the PS4’s colour bar and speaker I’ve seen).
Towerfall is surprisingly deep, despite seeming simple on the surface, which is one of the reasons why it’s such a great couch multiplayer game, anyone can pick it up and start playing and soon you find yourself on the same level as the others you’re playing with.
While Towerfall‘s Versus Mode is great fun, and often results in the fantastic close quarters yelling and ‘chop-busting’ that is par for the course for couch multiplayers, (the gloating only gets worse when the glorious final kill is replayed in slow motion), the co-operative campaign mode is my personal highlight.
You would think, with small margin for error and the ability to shoot one another, a chaotic campaign would result in animosity and rivers of blame and hatred, but you’d be mistaken. Towerfall brings people together, the game is bigger than trying to outdo one another, and you find yourself congratulating each other on great kill chains, or for surviving those damn clone archers against all the odds. You end up setting goals for yourselves; no deaths until round 4 was a popular one last time Charlie and I played, and This is the best round yet will almost inevitably end in a horrific 3 suicides in one round event. And when you do achieve your goal, when you finally beat the round, it’s so damn rewarding.
There’s also the trial mode, which really pushes your speed and dexterity, you’ll soon find yourself learning advanced techniques to try and shave off precious milliseconds, then moving those into the campaign.
Though it sounds like it should be frustrating it, the team behind the game have made the iteration time as short as possible, restarts are quick, easy and expected, deaths don’t keep you down for long and they allow you a chance to redeem yourself through an explosive re-entry. But the crown of making this game ‘fun to fail’ is the music: each level has it’s own score, the songs are catchy, atmospheric (especially the King’s Court, that tune is killer) without being a distraction, but the best thing is that the tracks don’t restart when the levels do, meaning, if you’re prone to bad starts, or you’re stuck on a particularly tough level (Curse you hardcore King’s Court), you don’t hear the same 3 bars over again.
Towerfall Ascension is by far my favourite multiplayer experience of this generation, it’s fun, easy to grasp and hard to master. Getting it right makes you feel like a big goddamn hero, and getting it wrong humbles you enough to keep you on the level. You’ll find yourself sinking hours into the game just as often as you find yourself picking it up for half an hour to kill some time.
Give me this charming archery couch-multiplayer over FPS lag filled deathmatches any day of the week, especially if that day marks the release of the Dark World expansion that will bring new missions, archers and game types with it.