Friday, September 29, 2017

Review: Tower of Babel


If you’re a big fan of the likes of Temple Run you may be in some luck with the release of Tower of Babel on the Nintendo Switch as it marks the official appearance of the endless runner style on the platform. Your job is to get up a tower filled with a random assortment of death traps and obstacles, trying to collect gems on the way, so that you can get to the top and trigger the tower’s destruction before making a mad dash back down through more assorted traps. This is the relatively basic foundation to the game, but thankfully as you progress it continues, for a while, to find new and better ways to try to kill you.

The presentation is generally straight-forward and functional sporting a variety of perspectives depending on the type of tower you’re tackling. You start out and are generally playing in more of a side view perspective but on some more complicated towers you’ll be working from more of a behind view for the action. While the behind view can be a little trickier to judge in terms of depth perception overall the graphics in the game work functionally well, though they’re not groundbreaking by any means.

In terms of variety your moves are a bit restrictive but they’re still very functional. You have the ability to jump, slide, speed up, slow down, and (when appropriate) change lanes to the left and right. From tower to tower both the nature of the traps and the number of lanes you’ll need to manage will vary and this variety helps to keep it all from feeling quite so repetitive. Initially you’ll only need to worry about speeding up and slowing down to avoid the traps thrown in your way but then as you progress the challenge is amped up as up to 3 lanes get brought into play, forcing you to make some snap judgements about where you want or need to be to keep moving along. You’ll need to collect the majority of gems that you’ll come across on your way up so you’ll need to make quick decisions on which few may not be worth the trouble and some are pretty much going to force you into harm’s way. If you take 2 hits in pretty quick succession you’ll be dead but the good news is that if you’re able to avoid taking damage for a short period of time you’ll be back to normal and able to take more than one hit again. This mechanic is nice as it encourages you to consider slowing down to reduce your overall risk when you’ve been hit but at the same time you’re very aware that the clock is also ticking.


In general this has pretty well summarized the majority of what the game has to offer though, again, as you progress there will be some variations to the formula as you reach new towers to keep it from becoming too monotonous too quickly. I’d say the challenge, overall is pretty middle of the road but even once you’ve mastered all of the towers there is an opportunity to participate in leaderboards. One flaw with this is that only the top 8 times are displayed, there’s no filtering for global versus local versus friends, and navigating for times between towers doesn’t seem possible, you can only see the one for the tower you’re currently working on. Its problems like this that, compounding the game’s overall simplicity, prevent it from being more than middling for the most part unless you’re really a huge fan of this overall style of play.

In the end Tower of Babel isn’t that bad of a game for the price of entry. If you enjoy the endless runner style the game does do a fair job of iterating on the same overall formula with a variety of traps and looks to keep it fresh. With a patch hopefully the issue with the limited nature of the leaderboards could be addressed and people could feel a bit more compelled to compete on them with their friends and others, understanding where they currently rank and how much harder they’ll need to try to climb higher in the ranks would really help sell the replay angle a game like this needs. As implemented it is just hard to recommend for more than fans of the genre though.


Score: 6.5

Pros:
  • Does a fair job of trying to keep things engaging by switching up lanes and traps from tower to tower
  • Currently one of the only offerings in this style of play on the Switch


Cons:
  • Even with the attempts at variety it’s hard to get around the fact that fundamentally you’re still generally doing the same things overall
  • The online leaderboard is kind of a nice feature but since it isn’t well or fully implemented it isn’t of much benefit
  • While the different perspectives work in general the behind view used with some towers makes depth perception a little difficult and could have been improved upon


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