Tower of Guns is a very simple game at its core. You play the protagonist, running through room after room of the eponymous tower, shooting anything mechanical that tries to do you harm. Once you've cleared a room, you shoot the door and move into another one to do the same, then repeat until you meet a boss character. Beat a boss and you're onto the next level, which is a case of doing the same thing again.
It sounds dull, but Tower of Guns is far from your standard FPS. There are no save points – every attempt starts from the very beginning of the game – but this isn't a bad thing, given that the first time you defeat the final boss, your entire run will only have taken thirty or so minutes. This sounds horrifying to the more frugal gamer, we're sure, but there's a method to the madness. The goal is to defeat the tower in the quickest possible time. Each stage has a par time for completion, and it'll soon become apparent that while you can sprint through a room and ignore everything barring turrets and guns that are directly in your way, this isn't necessarily the best way to do things. The reason for that is that enemies drop loot. Coins, health, power-ups, game and gun modifiers, and XP pickups which increase your selected weapon's firepower are the order of the day, and you're going to need all of them as the going gets tougher. So, Tower of Guns becomes a game where you need to balance the speed of your run against how many power-ups you'll need later on.
In order to mix things up, rooms are presented to you randomly. No two runs are ever the same, so while you may blaze through the first two stages, the third might present you with a room that you've never seen before, which has a puzzling path to the exit. This helps to keep things fresh. Also mixing things up are "perks" which can be selected before each game starts. You might wish to use one that prevents you from taking environmental damage, or one that stops you from being hurt by lava. The choice is yours and can be all the difference between a winning run and a losing one.
On top of that, Tower of Guns offers a points-based "Endless" mode where you just play through the game over and over until you die, racking up a score to post to the leaderboard. Inexplicably, your score isn't shown to you anywhere during the game, or after it, so the only way you know if you beat your best is if you've climbed the leaderboard. "Dice Roll" mode is also on offer too, allowing you to play through with random buffs and debuffs being awarded after each level.
Undoubtedly, some will become hooked to the Tower of Guns formula and will play it over and over again. Indeed, one of the available achievements isn't awarded until – win or lose - you've complete 100 attempts. Some will tap out way before that achievement pops though, mainly due to the problems that the game contains.
The first thing to acknowledge is indeed the game's randomness. On one run, you'll be awarded an extra jump power up before you've even seen your first enemy, then pick up boosts to your maximum health and your movement speed by the end of the first room, before picking up a modifier which lowers the game's difficulty in the next. Of course, things may go the other way, with you accidentally grabbing a mod that lowers your damage and another that increases the difficulty. While the randomness does add a bit of surprise and spice to things, it can feel terribly, terribly unfair to start off with a distinct disadvantage. The person who tops the leaderboards is likely going to be the person that was luckiest with their pickups, rather than the player with the most skill.
Also, some of those random drops can cause issues. Against the game's final boss – who has a shield that spins around him, with a gap that you need to fire into in order to cause him any damage – you'll find that a gun with homing bullets will do absolutely nothing even if you're stood right next to the target, since your shots decide to whizz off and head towards all of the regenerating enemies in the room. Sadly, there's no way to switch gun mods on the fly, so if this happens you're basically stuck until the boss finally does away with you. The fact that you only seem to get gun mod power ups after beating a boss exacerbates the situation, as if you start the last stage without changing away from the homing mod, you may as well quit your run and start from scratch.
There are graphical issues to report as well. Tower of Guns is far from the most beautiful looking game in the world. Being based on the classic arena shooter style, it isn't going to wow the crowds and puts in a mixed performance but everything is functional enough. When you get into a boss battle or a room filled with enough enemies that the framerate drops well into the single digits though, the functionality of it all goes out of the window. Admittedly, this only happens with some rooms, and due to the random nature of the game there's a good chance that you won't run into any issues like this for a while, but eventually you will - it may even happen multiple times in a run -and it'll leave something of a sour taste.
Even with those problems in mind, Tower of Guns has something about it that will keep you playing longer than you'd imagine that you would. First, you'll just be trying to beat the final boss. Then you'll be trying to unlock all of the weapons or perks to see what they do. Then you'll be trying to beat your best time. After that, maybe you'll have a few shots at the Endless Mode to see if you can rank highly on the leaderboard. The fact that each round will generally take you a lot less than half an hour means that there's something of the "one more go" temptation about the game. The real problem is that even if you do all of those things, you'll only have spent a few hours in the game's company.
It won't be everybody's cup of tea, will cause frustration at times, could do with a bit more polish and a few more game modes, and really could have done with some more intelligent achievement design, but Tower of Guns can be surprisingly addictive. We're not entirely convinced that the $14.99 pricepoint is entirely realistic for the quality and the amount of playing time that's on offer here when compared to other titles in the market, though.
There's no doubt that Tower of Guns will be a game that you either love or hate. An interesting take on the FPS genre, the game feels like a cross between a more traditional shooter and a gameshow. It lacks polish in places and desperately wants for more game modes or something to extend the amount of provided game time beyond beating your best score or run, but there's potential here that the developers could – and should - build on in the future.