Thursday 20 April 2017

Dark Tower (Vectrex review)

Developer: GCE
Publisher: N/A
Released: N/A

Dark Tower is an unreleased third-person adventure game that was programmed in 1983.

You control a squadron of warriors and the objective is to find 1-4 keys (depending on the difficulty setting), locate the Dark Tower, and solve its puzzle by putting the keys in the correct order. While searching the forest for keys, you'll find gold that allows you to buy items such as a Healer (protects you from the plague), and a Scout (stops you from getting lost in the fog). In addition, treasure chests are scattered around, and these sometimes pull you into a short Brigand mini-game where you need to fight for survival by throwing flamoids at enemies and avoiding their projectiles. The gameplay is deep (a wild shift from most other Vectrex games of the time) and just playing for a few minutes won't yield much in the way of progress; that's because the large game world requires patience to explore, and if you're willing to draw your own maps to remember the location of items there's plenty to sink your teeth into. However, its biggest strength is also its biggest downfall, as there's a ton of aimless wandering for most of your experience; trying to locate keys is difficult enough, but finding the hidden Tower is a gigantic pain and the only time I managed to locate it was through sheer luck! There's also a few unavoidable deaths due to the plague which seems like an artificial way to challenge the player and extend game time. Overall, everything is just too random, and the fact that luck replaces skill and strategy in most instances is disheartening. The Brigand mini-game is easily the best part, as it's somewhat reminiscent of Whack-a-Mole! The controls here are very tight, making it easy to dodge incoming projectiles while quickly firing back before enemies disappear. Graphically, the game looks great and the crooked, pointed trees convey a creepy atmosphere that draws you in.
Dark Tower is a unique, deep title in a library full of Arcade style shooters and simplistic gameplay ideas, and for that it should be commended. It does suck you in the more you play, but whether you enjoy it depends on how patient you are, and how much time you're willing to sacrifice to see any progress whatsoever.
Random trivia: The game was inspired by the 1981 board game of the same name.

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