TowerFall Ascension

A challenging, charming and funny retro platformer



A self-described “archery combat platformer”, TowerFall Ascension is both a loving tribute to 80s platform games and a delightful new addition to the genre. God knows how many 10p coins this would have claimed if it were an arcade game 30 years ago.

Against a backdrop of static screens and with blocky 8-bit graphics, the game requires you to bounce, run, jump and fire arrows in a bid to survive. You can aim your arrows, fire blind, or hop on enemies’ heads Mario-style. Every level has numerous mini-stages, each bringing a new wave of enemies to dispatch. Arrows are rationed, so be careful how many you use. You can, however, retrieve them from walls and from the remains of your fallen foes.

It’s relentlessly paced and quite tough, but also fair, intuitive, and deceptively tactical: Some enemies explode when killed (both a benefit and a nuisance) and your arrows that pass by fires will catch flame. Because it’s on a fixed screen, you can run or fall through one side and emerge from the other, a la Pac-Man.

The gory details in the deaths are stubbornly charming because of the retro graphics, such as blood splashes; a floating eyeball losing its wings and plopping to the ground; or another villain disappearing, leaving his empty robe to flop to the floor. Every enemy quashed is a satisfying little victory.

TowerFall Ascension is also a terrific multiplayer title. You can play either collaboratively or competitively. The latter is probably more fun, not least because you can pick up your opponents’ missed arrows and fire them back.

Challenging, zippy, funny and mercilessly addictive.