Tower of Doom - Retro Reflections

Tower of Doom is my all time favorite arcade game. It is a fantasy action/role playing adventure, where you travel through a land of mystery and danger, searching to defeat a powerful evil force that lurks in a distant, dark tower.

First, you choose your character. The blonde elf is amazing· her sword has medium reach but hits fast and her sorcery includes magic missiles, lightning bolts, fireballs and an ice storm. Cloud kill exterminates every living thing on screen and polymorph transforms a monster into a harmless pig. The cleric can cure himself or an ally and has the ability to destroy the undead or hold opponents temporarily in their position. Unfortunately, his mace is not particularly lethal and his health is limited, making him the weakest character. The dwarf deals a lot of damage with his axe quickly, provided you are close to an enemy. The fighter has no spells either, but is the second best character thanks to his superior melee skill, long sword and high stamina.

After selecting a hero you start the adventure. You face various monsters, humanoid or others. Kobolds are small but cause problems due to their numbers. Ogres swing big clubs and are a serious threat. Troglodytes live near water and attack with tridents while gnolls wield halberds and howl irritatingly. Hellhounds spit flames and ghouls lurch with their filthy claws. There are bosses too, for example, a manticore, which looks like a lion and can fly or assault you with spikes, a shadow elf, who moves with blinding speed, and a troll, that regenerates its wounds. As you may have noticed, there are no goblins, orcs or spiders. At last!

Each character has a main weapon, a shield and some secondary items: daggers, arrows, oil flasks and hammers. He/she may also find magical rings, that are best kept for bosses. Daggers are weaker than arrows but are faster to shoot. Hammers are tricky because they bounce off of the ground, however they stun enemies. Oil flasks burst into flames, so you can throw them to a knocked down opponent or to a spot in front of you to hurt approaching monsters. Cooking the manticore and hitting it while it was burning was fun!

The hack ‘n’ slash combat is both demanding and entertaining. If you act carelessly you will end up dead soon. You need to learn how each creature behaves, make sure they don’t surround you, take advantage of all available moves and use your secondary weapons and magic at the right moment. It’s easy to spend your resources at the first difficult battle, only to find yourself in a harder situation unprepared. Traps, such as falling boulders or spears protruding from the floor, inflict a lot of damage∙ with time, you memorize their position and learn to avoid them.

Choosing paths is another great aspect of the game. Different roads lead to different areas and challenges. At the stage before the last you get to fight a freaky beholder or a huge red dragon. The beholder is tough, as it casts spells from its hideous round head, but the dragon can incinerate you instantly with its breath. Exploration is not necessary, nevertheless it is interesting and rewarding.

The game provides help by letting you visit shops and leveling up your character. Inside a shop you see a beautiful merchant and buy secondary weapons. Leveling up happens automatically and increases your maximum health and amount of spells or gives you access to new magic. Loot appears in the form of coins and may be hidden in chests.

The painted 2-d scenery and character pictures have an old-school charm that reminds me of role playing games of the 1990s. The colors are pleasing to they eye and there is an abundance of locations, such as a town street, the deck of a ship, an ominous swamp and a desolate plateau. The sprites look fine and each monster type has its own set of moves. The design and animation of the four selectable characters is very good. The visual effects are few and unimpressive but I don’t mind that. The story is told through static images, where someone asks for help or tells you where you should go next.

The music has a tone of urgency and the sound effects, for example monster growls or your shield deflecting a blow, are realistic.

The control is easy to learn and allows for a surprising assortment of moves. You can walk or run, deal a combo or block with your shield. You may crouch, and then hit someone low or rush ahead with a slash. You can jump and hit horizontally or downwards, deliver a blow while running or dart forward and make a long jump. You can unleash a slower, powerful strike or select a spell and cast it. All four characters respond immediately to your commands, the collision detection is accurate and hitting your enemies is satisfying.

The difficulty curve is excellent. You won’t go far the first times you play and the stages get progressively harder. However, the more you play the more tricks you discover and the better you become. Finally, I was skilled enough to complete Tower of Doom with a single credit, with any character. Even then I continued playing, because the joy of travelling through forests and dungeons, defeating dragons and collecting loot never got old. Sometimes another player entered the fray and the fun increased.

Tower of Doom is an amazing game, with tasteful art and plenty of action. Its fantasy atmosphere, ingenious combat system and variety of situations make it incredibly addictive. I wish we had such games on the PC.

Platform Arcade
Developer(s) Capcom
Publisher(s) Capcom
Genre(s) Beat 'Em Up
Mode(s) Single Player
Other Platform(s) NA

Article by Dimitris

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