The first thing you notice in Tower of Guns is the lack of a lock-on feature. Unlike Call of Duty, Battlefield and more, you can’t simply ‘snap’ to the enemy and take them out. It’s back to the old-school free-aim for you. The weak will find it jarring and dismiss it instantly, but the strong will be in for a much needed breath of fresh air in the shooter genre.
See, Tower of Guns may look like Borderlands and play like Doom, but it has more in common with bullet hell games and Spelunky. Procedurally generated levels are dotted with enemies that want to end you with bullets, blades, bombs and lasers as quick as possible. You will die. And Tower of Guns takes glee in chalking up your deaths to let you know how many times you’ve been snuffed out.
There’s a loose story here about an insane clown living atop the seven levels of the titular towers, but it’s irrelevant. All you need to know is that it’s like the cave-dwelling, Spelunky, in that your play time is split into ‘runs’ as you try to reach the summit.
You start with two weapons - a flimsy, pea-shooter of a handgun and a blade saw firing rifle. There are more guns to unlock by, for example, beating one of the stages under a set time or collecting all the secrets. Each gun starts off with the effectiveness of tossing a handful of gravel at a foe.
The trick to Tower of Guns is to kill enemies and then collect the blue fragments they drop to level up your weapon. The more you get, the more devastating your gun becomes. Our favourite is Egon’s Pride, which when fully charged is like a rapid-fire machine gun that tears enemies into pixel fragments in no time.
There’s also the option to take a perk along for the ride too. These come in flavours such as increased health from the off, triple jump abilities and one that prevents environmental damage, which is handy seeing as each stage is packed with spikes, lava and spiny blades ‘o death.
When it all comes together for that perfect run, Tower of Guns feels excellent. Sure you can whizz through each door to the big boss in no-time at all, but the risk/reward of exploring every crevice of a level for perks (increased armour, additional jumps and more) will make that final fight much easier.
Sadly, Tower of Guns becomes repetitive after a couple of hours in. The randomly generated stages start to merge into one. They’re characterised by the base layouts like Foundry’s molten lava and Gearworks’ gigantic cogs. They’re then peppered with the random bits like floating tanks and wall mounted turrets to the odd new flourish like cubes that fling you quickly in a direction when you pass through. But the action remains the same - strafe and fire.
Furthermore, the max level of each weapon is can be reached quickly, especially with the right perk attached. Once you have a fully charged piece, the sense of progression suddenly disappears. Bad news indeed, if you’ve managed this in the first stage and still have six more levels to go. Taking heavy fire does reduce your weapon’s level, but you’re never too far away from regaining it.
Tower of Guns also has some paper-thin set design that’s seen us trapped within the framework of the game. There’s a ‘tilt’ function, which resets you back to the beginning of an area, but this is like an admission that the stages are broke. It’s good fun and a nice antidote to your standard FPS fare, but despite Tower of Guns hardcore stylings it lacks the depth and freshness necessary to keep you hooked for long.