Atlus and Ace Team’s “The Deadly Tower of Monsters” isn’t their first stab at a humorous narrative in their games, but it is probably the most overt. The new third-person isometric-viewpoint action/adventure game isn’t exactly groundbreaking, as far as its gameplay is concerned, but the typical dual-stick action is supplemented with some role playing game elements. Of course the real reason to play “The Deadly Tower of Monsters” is its homage to the b-movies of yesteryear, framed in a unique-to-gaming, mockumentary style.
“The Deadly Tower of Monsters” game is presented as a rerelease of an eponymous classic b-movie, complete with director’s commentary on either a VHS or DVD format. The game’s video options actually let you decide to whether play with, or without the film-grain. Despite the visual cleverness, it seems there is some issue as to what time period the developers are channeling. The official website claims “the movie” is from the nineteen-seventies, though “Godzilla,” “Flash Gordon” and the other space operas, along with our fascination with the “Atomic Age” were actually from the nineteen-fifties.
Film history aside, “The Deadly Tower of Monsters” is a competent action game. There aren’t any real puzzles to solve like the ones in the “Lara Croft” games, but the combat is satisfying, and there are a few different gameplay mechanics employed. The melee and missile weapons all work well, and the ability to change a character’s load out is a nice option too. The enemies are varied, and the whole tower concept, along with the limited jet pack mechanic helps to set the game apart from the competition.
Of course it’s really that Christopher Guest-like mockumentary approach to the narrative in “The Deadly Tower of Monsters” that really makes the game. The director’s commentary is even delivered in imitation of Fred Willard’s typical movie commentator role, misogyny included. Though the top-down camera makes noticing all of it difficult, the enemies, props and set pieces are all revealed as typical primitive stagecraft. The strings can be seen on the flying creatures, but the intentionally stilted animations of other creatures are a little more difficult to discern.
The director’s commentary is the main source of entertainment throughout the handful hours it takes to play through “The Deadly Tower of Monsters.” The gameplay, for its part doesn’t get in the way, though there were a few times that I did get stuck in an environment and had to reload the save file. Blaming player deaths on the wrong piece of film is an example of how the narrative is perfectly tailored to the game, but beyond that integrated narrative “The Deadly Tower of Monsters” is a fairly standard action adventure jaunt.