|Action puzzle game ported from the arcade version, which ran on the Aleck 64 hardware, ie the arcade version of the N64 (thanks undamned for that info, which I've probably misquoted somehow). Funny how they turned the hardware's name into the game's main character. Also funny that they used such old arcade hardware for an arcade game that came out just a year or two ago.|
But let's talk about the GBA version. They've packed tons of modes and features in here: "Story" mode for both Tower and Shaft games, an "Endless" mode for both, a "Treasure" mode where you go up towers and down shafts to acquire a laundry list of items, various options in a Gallery mode, a Collection mode that displays special items you've found, and what I think is a mulitplayer race mode that I can't access for lack of another copy of the game. Throw in three selectable difficulty levels that drastically alter the size of the towers and shafts you traverse, and nine or so playable characters, and you've got a lot of stuff to do here.
If that all sounds complicated, you'll be happy to know that the actual gameplay controls are incredibly simple. In Tower mode, your character moves left and right automatically, bouncing off the outer walls of the tower. All you do is charge the A button to power up their jump meter; release the meter when it has charged to the top, and your character jumps as high as they can. If you release early, though, they don't jump very high, and if you hold too long, the meter resets--and by the time you get it charged again, your character may have trundled off the platform, falling down the tower to their death. Each character has a different jump charge time, jump height, and I think maybe movement speed. My favorite character so for is a guy who has a very short jump, but whose meter charges quickly, then holds for a moment at max power, making him a very dependable jumper. But you still have to watch out for increasing numbers of trick platforms, like ones that go up and down, side to side, or crumble under your feet.
In Shaft mode, the only control is moving the joystick left or right to wiggle your character off the sides of little platforms in a deep shaft. The screen scrolls downward constantly, with a descending (effectively) ceiling of spikes at the top, so if you don't hoof it downward fast enough, you'll get spikes in the head, lowering your health meter. Some of the platforms are tricky, too, like ice ones that squirt you sideways faster than you counted on, conveyor belts, beds of spikes, collapsing platforms, and so on.
Once you get to the bottom (Shaft) or the top (Tower), it's on to the next, more extensive level, generally with a little slideshow conversation in Japanese in between. You'll come across a wide variety of powerups, powerdowns, and collectable items in the course of your climbs. In Easy mode, at least, you start with a few powerups automatically, and you also get a feather, which summons an angel to resurrect you if you plunge to your death off the bottom of the screen; the angel's power isn't perfect, though, and you find yourself set back ten floors upon reincarnation.
Especially on harder difficulties, the stages can get very long, and I don't think the game saves level progression--I haven't found a way to do it, at least. So while it's quick to pick up, you may find yourself playing for quite a while to get through Story mode.
Endless mode is similar, only the level never ends. Also, you can opt to have no powerups anywhere.
In Treasure mode, you hop around the world map, going through towers and shafts in the search for certain items. You earn points that you can spend acquiring helpful powerup items and "toys" from shops. Just about everything in this mode has to be unlocked over the course of playing the earlier bits; I haven't unlocked anything yet, because I haven't played this mode hardly at all, but there are spots on the world map called "Minigame," which sounds promising.
I also haven't unlocked several of the Galleries, but you can view scores, collected items, and, to judge by the titles, view stage, character, and music galleries.
Most importantly, the game is fun, and addictive, with that "oooh I just need ten more floors" type of quality whose closest parallel I can find lies in Namco's Mr. Driller series (see entry 388); and in terms of the simple control, the game brings to mind another Namco arcade title: Star Trigon (see entry 482). T&S can't quite claim the impeccable production values of those Namco titles, but it's no slouch, either, with bold backgrounds and character designs, and an impressive musical theme for each new stage.
It seems unlikely that the disparate producers Aruze (hisss!), Altron, and Nagi-P Soft will combine forces again to sequelize this fine title, but at least they've given us a lot of great gameplay to work with here. With the simple controls and bold 2D artwork, the game works brilliantly on the GBA. Aleck Bordon, I salute you!