Perhaps Atari Hard would be a better term for the game than Nintendo Hard. After all, Broderbund produced a number of games that I recall enjoying on the Atari 800 my folks had. Not only that, but the graphics, sounds, and overall movements of the main character remind me more of a later Atari game than a Nintendo game--even a harder one. Was it worth renting back when I was a kid, or did Broderbund leave me feeling like I wasted not only one, but at least two or three weekend rentals on this thing?
You are Prince Myer, on the eve of your coronation ceremony a mysterious shadow with a name that will make you scream like Shatner (Khan) informs you that Rubas, the "Devil of Darkness" has designs to conquer your kingdom. What can you do to stop this threat? Ascend the Seven Deadly Towers, capture the mystical bells held by their masters, and vanquish the evil Rubas. To call the game an action puzzle game doesn't do justice the literal hundreds of screens you will need to navigate through in order to find your way to the top of the towers. Navigating these mazes can get especially difficult and frustrating as many of the screens are similar in layout, enemies respawn as soon as you leave a room/screen, and color differentiation just doesn't happen. The dull colors and unimaginative enemies are also a problem as killing them gets tedious within minutes of play. Also problematic with the game is the fact that you have to make the choice between chopping your way through enemies and collecting health and coins, or "ludder" as Deadly Towers calls it, or make an attempt to avoid them all together in order to advance as fast as you can. If you spend forever killing enemies (and it will take forever because your knife, unless right on the enemy, the game will not let you re-throw it until it has reached the other side of the screen.) You can lose all the health and money you just gained only to start back at the bottom of the tower.
Graphics and Style:
I can sum up both the graphics and style of game very simply: This feels like an Atari game from top to bottom. Not that I didn't love and still love Atari games. It just so reminds me of an Atari game that I can't help but feel I would be more forgiving of the repetitive colors and bland, flat graphics. James Rolfe of Angry Video Game Nerd fame hit it on the head in his review when he points out that fighting slinkys and the usual assortment of bats is just old, even at this point. I know that they were going for an isometric-ish view, but really nothing pops, nothing looks 3-D in the slightest. The poorness of it makes it feel even flatter if such a thing were possible. It sometimes looks like paper pieces moving across a cut out scene like for paper dollhouse.
Music and Sound:
The sound is passable, which I think is a perfect summation of much of the game. The plinks and plunks again really remind me of something I would find on the Atari and all but the earliest Nintendo games--which this is. So I guess it's earliness shows? But maybe that's no excuse, because the sound design in the original Legend of Zelda was awesome! But I digress...let's talk about the music.
While sufficient, the music for the soundtrack to Deadly Towers never gets memorable. The loops get old, the tunes are forgettable, and border on annoying. Truthfully, I never heard much beyond the title screen music and the first castle floor music when I was a kid. While YouTube now allows me the luxury of finding other soundtracks from the game, none of them are something I would plan on listening to again outside of this review. Take a listen and see what you think:
Memories and New Thoughts:
When I played this game as a kid I just took it for granted that some NES games were super hard, and others were super easy. Both styles can get dull rather quickly, and I think playing the game now as an adult I feel like dull pretty much encapsulates the whole experience. I mean, I don't think that it's quite as terrible as some other games out there. For the most part the controls function, bad guys take dozens of stabs--but at least they die, and if you can work your way through it all, Deadly Towers does have an ending that satisfyingly wraps up the game's story. The problem though remains now the same for me as when I was a kid. I just am not satisfied when I am playing the game. I'll call the feeling I get from the game "chopping wood syndrome." Meaning I feel like playing through the game is tedious work that feels like it "needs" getting done. If I don't chop the wood, it won't get done. If I don't plow down all these bad guys, it's not going to get done. I get that there's this epic quest where you've got to stop a great evil from conquering your kingdom and all that stuff, but every slime ball, every bat, and every monster just may as well be blocks of wood. While the controls seem workable and it's fair in that you can kill enemies if you are patient it enough...in the end, I think this kingdom is going to fall because I'm ready to leave it and never come back.