The Deadly Tower of Monsters is Like a Playable B-Level Sci-Fi Movie
Fitting most indie games into a clean and tidy category or genre is usually an exercise in futility. Many indie studios make evocative, surprising, and entirely unique experiences that you just can’t find anywhere else. Not many teams are able to deliver something completely different every time they make a game, though. That’s why Andres, Carlos, and Edmundo Bordeu, three brothers that grew up and make games together, are so impressive.
They come from the same background but still bring their own ideas to the table with each new project. They stuck their first initials together to form ACE Team, an independent game development studio based out of their home country of Chile in South America, and started making history.
“When we got started, there were no other video game developers in our country really,” Andres tells me over a Skype call between the two of us and one of his brothers, Edmundo. “There was absolutely no industry at all.” They spent a little time trying to start something on their own, but it proved to be pretty difficult. After working with another, larger, company for a few years, they decided to give it another shot. “So that’s when Edmundo, Carlos, and I founded ACE Team as an indie studio.”
Generally speaking, if you took a look at most other indie developers, they tend to stick to what they know best. Whether it be top-down action games, side-scrolling platformers, strategy games, or first-person adventure games, most indie studios perfect a single craft and iterate on that formula. Which makes sense: less people and fewer funds mean less room for experimentation and more pressure to succeed with each release. But ACE Team don’t walk that path.
“It would be boring to do the same thing all the time,” Andres says. “When you know you’re going to work for over a year on a single project, it’s really important to make sure it stays interesting that entire time.”
Zeno Clash, ACE Team’s first game, is a first-person action beat ‘em up with a focus on visual flair and fast-paced thrills. They followed that up with Rock of Ages, which is about as much of a polar-opposite project as possible: a comical escapade starring giant boulders that’s part strategy game and part racer. It’s bizarre, but also genuinely unique and intriguing. Follow that up with an action-adventure roguelike named Abyss Odyssey and a direct sequel to Zeno Clash for good measure and that’s about as diverse of a catalog as you can get.
“We also try to innovate with each game,” Andres says. “Whether that be with the game mechanics or art style, we feel that each of them give us an opportunity to innovate and do something different each time. Sometimes, we start with the gameplay idea that doesn’t have a theme associated with it really, just an idea that we like, which is what happened with Rock of Ages.”
But how did this trio of brothers arrive at The Deadly Tower of Monsters, a sci-fi themed B-movie wrapped up in a package full of top-down action? “In this case it started more with the gameplay,” Edmundo says. They knew they wanted to make a top-down action game full of enemies and areas to explore. What they didn’t know however, is who those enemies would be and what those areas would look like.
Next came the theme. “After we landed on the sci-fi theme we started talking about this idea of having a B-movie style atmosphere,” Andres says. “We brought the idea to ATLUS and they were actually huge fans of and as it turned out, have always liked those kinds of movies as well.” As a result, everything from Flash Gordon, to Godzilla, and Forbidden Planet were tapped as sources of heavy inspiration.
In The Deadly Tower of Monsters, you take control of the boisterous astronaut Dick Starspeed. After crash landing on a foreign planet, Dick meets the beautiful and enchanting Scarlet Nova. You’re tasked with saving her from the clutches of her evil Emperor father and liberating the planet of Gravoria once and for all - while laying waste to hundreds of evil robots, monsters, and ape men along the way.
Since The Deadly Tower of Monsters employs such a novel and unique premise - that is, the entire game taking place inside of a fictional B-movie - there are more forces at play than just your standard action game. “The director of this fake movie is sort of a character in the game as well,” Edmundo says. “We found it was much more entertaining to go through the game with the director commentating on what you’re doing.”
Of course, that sounds an awful lot like Bastion, but the narration in The Deadly Tower of Monsters has a different vibe. “Since our narrator is the director, he talks about the scenes in the past tense and recalls back to what it was like when he recorded them,” Andres explains. “Think of it like this: yes, you’re playing the game, which is actually just the movie. But at the same time, the director is commenting on the movie as if you were watching the DVD with the director commentary turned on.” This means you’ll hear him make references to how a creature was put together using special effects or how they had to get creative to get around the fact that their budget was too small for something.
As players progress up the tower, they’ll be able to freely move throughout the various different floors and go back to explore previous areas with their new abilities and powers, similar to exploration mechanics in Metroidvanias. In this way, ACE Team is able to successfully combine several genres just as they have in the past, while still creating an exciting and special new world to explore.
The Deadly Tower of Monsters is available now for PC on Steam for $15 and will last roughly 4-5 hours on a single playthrough, although a wide variety of collectibles and extra content exist for the completionists out there.
“We’re extremely excited about The Deadly Tower of Monsters and we can’t wait to see how our fans react,” Andres admits. “We just hope that we’re able to deliver something that both meets their expectations of what makes an ACE Team game an ACE Team game, but also pushes boundaries and does something new at the same time.”
David is a freelance writer and full-time nerd that has an unhealthy obsession with buying games during Steam sales that he never actually plays. It’s dangerous to go alone, so follow him on Twitter: @David_Jagneaux.