Tower 57

words manifested by: AJ Johnson

A game by Pixwerk for PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, Xbox One, and Amiga, originally released in 2017.
Tower 57 takes place in a “dieselpunk” world where people live in tightly-packed urban environments with huge towers jutting up through crowded smoky streets and colorfully-lit establishments offering gambling, drinking, or just a bit of rest. You take on the role of a team of agents hired to investigate a series of tumultuous events within Tower 57 that threaten to disrupt the entire city. You are told that a man called The Supervisor is behind this, so you must sneak into the tower and take him out to put a stop to a potential uprising… but of course, things are not as simple as they first appear.


At the start of the game, you select a team of three characters from a roster of six. Among these are a Tommy gun-wielding mobster, a scientist with an electric rifle, a police officer, a crazy-looking fellow dressed only in his underwear, an flamethrower-packing Abraham Lincoln lookalike, and a spy. The character select screen shows each of the characters and a video of their special attacks, along with a visual representation their weapons and special items, but with no description or details on how they operate. Players may go it alone or team up with a pal for online or offline 2P co-op, with the second player taking the role of the other three characters.


Gameplay takes place from an overhead isometric perspective, with players moving and aiming independently. Each character has a weak infinite-ammo weapon as well as a character-specific limited ammo weapon – which is replenished by finding ammo crates – and another slot that can be filled with occasional weapon drops from fallen enemies, such as exploding cannonballs gained by killing hermit crabs that use red barrels as their shells.


Environments are highly detailed and densely packed, and most objects are destructible – revealing ammo, health, and currency pickups when destroyed – which allows for quite a bit of chaos during firefights. Unfortunately, this design also leads to situations where the player may get hung up on scenery or find his shots blocked by what appears to be a background element, impeding his ability to combat foes or dodge enemy fire. Piles of trash, haphazardly-placed boxes, overgrown structures, broken bricks, and human remains add a lot of character to the world but can obscure visibility of enemies and projectiles, creating some complications during combat.


Most enemies have predictable behaviors and aren’t terribly difficult to kill, and there isn’t much enemy variety throughout the experience. However, the game’s difficulty is artificially increased – and its length likewise padded – by its severe punishments for failure, requiring players to engage the game very cautiously and commit dangerous scenarios to memory.


Checkpoints are few and far between, backtracking is often prevented, health restoratives are uncommon, and the player’s health can be drained quickly. Additionally, there some enemies that can kill the player in a single hit. While it’s possible to dash out of the way of these 1-hit kills, it’s also possible to get hung up on a bit of scenery and get caught under a falling explosive, losing a life instantly. There are also numerous occasions where the player is ambushed by multiple powerful enemies.


Getting killed results in the next character spawning automatically, and these characters can grab dropped weapons and items from the one who was killed. Losing all three characters results in a game over and a return to the most recent save point, which could mean repeating 20 minutes or so of gameplay.


Opportunities to revive fallen characters are rare and potentially expensive, as resurrections can only be performed by finding or purchasing amber balls and taking them to specific individuals (or they can be sold on the black market for big money if you don’t mind the risk). There’s a designated resurrection area in the hub, and hidden resurrection points in the dungeons themselves, but otherwise, you’ll need to be very careful about how you approach the dungeons, as death results in quite a lot of repeated gameplay, exacerbating the inherently repetitive dungeon-crawling combat.


Players may stave off death by making the most of their limited ammo weapons, and ammo restoratives appear fairly regularly, especially if you’re good about destroying every object in the environment. There are also numerous hidden treasures to be found by blasting through walls, which are revealed by flashing white when hit with projectiles.


As mentioned, each character has a special item that can be used in combat – and a few appear as enemy drops – including proximity mines and the ability to slow down time. Additionally, each character has a potentially screen-clearing special attack that can be used whenever a secondary meter is filled, which happens at a moderate rate as enemies are killed. These attacks pause the action as a character-specific event unfolds – like a UFO descending and firing lasers at every enemy onscreen – wiping out lesser foes immediately and reducing the health of stronger enemies and bosses.


The player has a slew of upgrades available to him. Each character’s weapons can be upgraded individually to increase their damage output and magazine size, as well as allow for special attacks and alternate ammo types like poison bullets. Additionally, the characters themselves can be upgraded. Upgrading the character’s right arm increases his weapon’s effectiveness, upgrading the left arm grants him additional uses of his special item, upgrading the legs increases the character’s dash and/or movement speed, and upgrading the torso increases health and eventually adds health regeneration. Body and weapon upgrade shops are spread throughout the dungeons, as are shops that sell health and ammo restoratives.


It’s also possible for a character to be physically damaged during combat, such as taking damage to the left arm which prevents the use of items, and losing all the benefits associated with the formerly upgraded appendage. More dramatic, however, is the fact that some enemies can tear off a character’s legs… and players are not killed by having their legs removed; instead, they have reduced movement speed and dash distance as they are forced to drag their bloody torso along the ground until they can get to a body upgrade shop (or a co-op companion can carry the injured character to safety). Getting attacked by a strong foe while you have no legs results in an instant kill.


Most enemies plod around the environment, slowly tossing projectiles or remaining harmless until they get in close, but a number of enemies pose an immediate threat, such as popup turrets, explosive-lobbing enemies that can strike from afar, and a few fast-moving enemies that run in to attack. In addition, there are a number of environmental hazards, such as spiked floors and flamethrowers that add to the challenge, especially when mixed with enemies… although many enemies are affected by environmental hazards as well. Enemies can catch fire and even set fellow enemies or barrels ablaze by walking into them, but some become more dangerous as their projectiles are also on fire.


Boss encounters appear at the end of each area. Their behaviors are not overly complex, but they all take a ton of hits to destroy, causing the battles to be very drawn out. As such, it’s a good idea to stock up on ammo beforehand, although most boss arenas contain a few crates that can be destroyed to reveal ammo or health pickups, making these encounters somewhat easier and allowing players to use their heaviest weapons throughout the fight.



2D CRED
Tower 57 was developed by Pixwerk, a studo founded by Marco “Benitosub” Pappalardo of Germany, and Thomas “Cyangmou” Feichtmeir of Austria (who also worked on The Mummy Demastered and Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I Don't Know!). Music for the game was composed by Rafael Langoni Smith. The game was funded in part by a successful Kickstarter campaign.


The game was published by 11 Bit Studios, the developer behind This War of Mine and the Anomaly series. The studio is also the publisher of Moonlighter, Beat Cop, and Children of Morta.

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