Tower of Heaven
"Long is the way, and hard, that out of Hell leads up to Light," is not just a great movie quote from a modern classic thriller (and, okay, a perfectly serviceable line from some poet named Milton), but it's also a fairly apt description of Tower of Heaven, a very challenging platform game from Askiisoft. If you're suffering from deja vu, it might be because we originally featured Tower of Heaven last year as a download, but now it's been ported to flash so you can torture yourselves with it just about anywhere you can hop on the net.
You play "you"... granted a dark green version of you with an enormous head and a strange little antenna thing on top, but it's still you. And you have decided to ascend the Tower of Heaven, ostensibly to talk to some deity or another, but I suppose it's just as feasible you've opted to make the climb because you're bored, or procrastinating on folding that big pile of laundry. In any case, as soon as you enter the tower you are greeted by a disembodied voice that welcomes you whilst at the same time warning you of the dangers that lie in wait.
To make your climb you'll use either the [arrow] keys or the [WASD] keys to move about, jump, forward dialogue, and either [down] or [S] will let you walk through doorways. Also note that you can save your game by opening up a mid game menu screen with the [ESC] key. You do not want to walk away from this game without properly saving first. Trust me on this.
But wait, there's a twist. You see, our invisible host soon grows wary of how easily we traverse his tower. As though spikes popping out of the ground without warning and whirring saw blades of death weren't enough, the host will periodically impose laws to make the road ahead even more challenging. Laws like no walking left or no touching blocks from the sides are particularly fun. And by fun I do mean throw your laptop out the window frustrating. May you be blessed enough to ascend the tower before pummeling your keyboard into a fine powder.
Analysis: From the spinach green color palette to the chiptune soundtrack to the big chunky pixels, Tower of Heaven is so reminiscent of the classic Nintendo Game Boy you can almost feel the eleven ounce plastic brick in your hands as you play. Indeed, it even feels like a Game Boy game which can be both a blessing and a curse.
Beyond the extremely nostalgic qualities of Tower of Heaven, the most striking aspect of this game is that it's hard, very hard, but in a unique and extremely interesting way. The laws that are periodically imposed upon you are creative and force you to look at levels in ways that you might otherwise overlook without the seemingly insane restrictions. Getting chased from the right by a saw blade becomes all the more challenging when you can't actually run left, just as a bunch of clustered blocks together looks outright perilous when you can no longer touch them from the sides. In this way, Tower of Heaven adds a puzzle aspect to the mix. One gets the impression that Tower would still be far from a cake walk without the laws, but trying to play with them will most definitely test both your platforming and thinking skills..
The controls are respectable. Perhaps they could be a little tighter in the jumping, and looser in the running; everyone has their own preferences, of course. There are plenty of concessions made to ease the blow of how hard Tower is; infinite lives, relatively short levels and a save option all are blessings to be counted especially once the difficulty ramps up. But the fact of the matter is that this is still a tough game that may turn off less nimble gamers. Also, it's actually not all that long. The high difficulty is what really gives this game its length so those who are really good at platform games shouldn't expect to get too much game play out of this title.
Regardless of whether Tower of Heaven is too hard and unbeatable, too easy and too short, or just right, it is most definitely worthy of praise. Askiisoft melds good production values, deep nostalgia, and a unique concept into a challenging yet rewarding platform game.