The masters at Ratalaika games are back with another grand offering ported from steam, this time in the form of a retro-themed puzzler from developers Midipixel, Warlock’s Tower.
Originally released in early 2017 this perplexing puzzler is now on the stores for console gamers. Taking the role of a postman sent to deliver a letter of goodwill to a cranky old warlock, you must make your way through over one hundred levels across five locations within his tower. These levels are filled with challenges and enemies that will test your brain while providing an engaging and rewarding experience. A selection of bonus levels are also on hand and will unlock once a specified percentage of completion for the full game has been reached.
After a brief yet nostalgia-filled intro to anyone who ever fired up a GameBoy back in the day, you get right down to business by traversing this twisting and turning tower. The hook is simple, every step you take throughout the grid-based levels reduces a life, if you reach zero you die. Luckily there are orbs scattered around each level which will provide you with a set number of new lives (moves), collecting them and using their allotted number wisely will see you making your way to the exit.
These numbers do not stack so a bit of forethought is needed, if you collect a five and move two spaces to collect another five this will not make eight, you will replace your current number of lives with the new number you have collected so going headlong towards each orb, in turn, is not always the answer especially when you need to collect a key to unlock the exit. As the levels progress the challenge escalates, not only are the rooms bigger but will also start featuring a range of monsters and obstacles.
Enemies range from Zombies, Blobs and Flying Eyes. To add a bit more complexity these enemies will only move on each third step you take so once again, planning and keeping track of your movement will be the key to success. They can only move one space but you don’t want to be on an adjacent space when that move happens as it’s instant death if they snag you. Levels will also start to feature a range of obstacles ranging from trap doors and barricades that can be utilised by reaching their respective switches, baskets that must be pushed but can also block you in, teleports and sometimes you will also have another character to switch between but your life number will be shared between the two characters.
The game does a nice job of introducing all these elements at a steady pace but also doesn’t waste any time in ramping up the challenge. This almost relentless shake-up of obstacles really keeps things feeling fresh as you progress, and the balancing of difficulty always felt fair which is a testament to the hard work put in from Midipixel. To ensure you have a fighting chance in the more complex levels you are provided with a flag early in the game, placing this flag acts as a checkpoint so if you do make a wrong move you can start from there instead of doing the whole level again. This flag is optional but is a nice aid to ensure gamers of various skill levels have a good chance of success.
Graphics are pretty much lifted from the GameBoy style of heavy pixel art. This style really suits the game and although they limit a wide range of variation in the five different areas, the change in colour sets the locations apart significantly. A soft cold blue is used for the factory setting then changes to a red for a library setting and so on. Even in busy levels filled with enemies, traps and obstacles, the pixel art stays clean ensuring everything stands out and is recognizable helping you to plan your moves.
Music is typically 8-Bit and doesn’t have a huge amount of variation but the tunes on offer are catchy and well suited for each location. Playing on switch the presentation was clean in both handheld and docked mode with no performance issues to report. Music and sound effects were clear and crisp through the handheld speakers.
Just when I start to think the whole pixel art, nostalgia act is growing too stale in the indie market, along comes a developer that just knows how to do it justice with the right style of game and manages to bring it all together nicely. Midipixel has crafted a fantastic puzzler that nails its balancing of strategy, difficulty and variation almost perfectly. Depending on your skill level and appreciation for these types of games you could spend between two and ten hours working your way through but with so many fiendishly fancy levels on hand there is plenty of replay value in this title. Controls are simple, presentation is charming, music is catchy and some of the dialogue is genuinely amusing. A true must-have for puzzle fans and given the GameBoy style, what better system to play it on than the Nintendo switch.
Review code provided
Platform: PC, Nintendo, PlayStation, Xbox
Release Date: 31/05/2019
No. of Players: 1
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
Download link: eShop