- Replay Value
Pandora’s Tower is a fairly unique action-RPG, but not one without issues. Tasking players with ascending the fictitious “Thirteen Towers” and retrieving demon flesh for their slowly mutating loved one, Pandora’s Tower is a literal race against time to reach the finish. The game almost feels like The Legend of Zelda mixed with Shadow of the Colossus and Castlevania. System lock-ups and frame rate problems bog down the experience, though.
The main hook to the gameplay in Pandora’s Tower is the chain. Given to you early on, this weapon lets you chain foes together, swing enemies around and even solve puzzles. You can pull blocks, latch on to distant objects and shoot it like a projectile.
There is also a time limit in effect (though it is poorly explained). While this might normally be considered a negative, the dungeons in the game are not overly complex. It also feels very rewarding when you quickly reach a point that unlocks a shortcut, allowing you to go back and talk to your girlfriend, Elena.
Each dungeon tasks you with breaking several chains that hold the boss door closed. Each area is littered with lots of puzzles and presents creative ways to utilize your limited arsenal. Swinging from hook to hook, reversing the direction of different grapple spots, unblocking giant platforms and navigating mazes are all orders of the day.
Great Boss Battles
Pandora’s Tower features some very clever boss battles. While they all are taken down with your chain weapon, getting to their weak point presents a puzzle unto itself. The first boss doesn’t properly represent this, opting to be a complete pushover to entice you into continuing.
Later bosses, though, have you moving their entire bodies to expose weak spots or hurling objects at them to make them flinch and thus giving you the opportunity to climb on top of them. Even the very final boss presents a new challenge, making every battle wholly original and engaging.
The core focus of the development team for Pandora’s Tower was to make you care about the people. Well, I can confidently say that is a resounding success. No one likes to see an innocent person suffer and Elena comes off as wholly undeserving of her fate.
In times of anguish and dread, she always has a smile on her face. When you return from dungeons all battered and bruised, Elena is attentive to your condition. When her face is half-deformed, she still wonders how she can help you.
The main character, Aeron, isn’t as defined, but his simple dialog does match your own thoughts; Scared in the beginning, gaining confidence throughout and distraught when the twist comes at the end. His lack of dialog allows you to project yourself onto him, which is nice.
Mavda is fairly typical, though. Her role in the game is pretty much what you’d expect of an old lady in an RPG. She doles out vague information and holds all the goodies until the end. She isn’t forgettable, per se, but she certainly won’t be your first memory.
While the lack of information may make certain aspects of the game harder than they should be, the enemies and puzzles all feel very balanced in their design. The dungeon designs convey a great sense of atmosphere that helps you come to puzzle solutions on your own.
While the enemies are no push-overs, no one foe presents a challenge too difficult. Running into a large group is obviously stupid, though, and the game won’t allow you to button mash your way to success. It feels very rewarding to tackle multiple foes and come out victorious.
Pandora’s Tower features some of the best use of the Wii Remote I’ve ever had. They aren’t without fault, but there isn’t a lot of forced waggle to hamper the experience. Most of the commands are either button presses or simple pointing.
To add diversity, though, the game allows you to use the Classic Controller. I found the lag on the pointer too unbearable, but options are always better than being forced into something.
An issue that shouldn’t be plaguing any game, Pandora’s Tower has some random lock-ups that occur for no reason and have no clear solution. Destructoid made mention of a bug that players may encounter after returning from the conclusion.
I, sadly, encountered that bug before even surmounting the final towers. As I went to leave from my house, my entire system froze. I was playing on a Wii-U, but I’ve read some forums where Wii users were experiencing the same problems. Talking to Elena or sleeping for a bit seemed to fix the problem, but I constantly was in fear of getting my save file to a state where I wouldn’t be able to proceed.
I suppose this should be a given for a Wii game, but Pandora’s Tower does feature some slow-down. This isn’t a tremendous problem, but when controller lag interrupts your attacks, frustration sets in. I can’t leave this off the list as I encountered a few instances where an otherwise easy to dodge attack nailed me due to input lag.
This might be a matter of preference, but the fixed camera does present some issues. A few rooms are so zoomed out that even finding Aeron is a difficult task. Chaining some foes also becomes impossible when enemies stand in front of each other.
To make matters worse, some enemies are able to attack you off the screen. This was one of the biggest issues in the later Resident Evil titles and I can’t say that I prefer this option. For the most part, though, the camera does behave.
Lack of Explanation
A tutorial level does exist in the game, but its information is ridiculously vague. You are told how to perform the basic attack and use your chain, but nothing else. Even the on-screen prompts are strangely vague, not conveying to me that the swing attack required me to jiggle the nunchuk.
The time limit that the game possesses is also never brought to your attention. While I suppose failing the first dungeon and replaying it would teach you about the time limit, I don’t feel that is the proper way to learn about a central game mechanic.
One of the final dungeons also introduces a new item, but the game hides its use behind text. You have to read through the book you acquire near it to learn of the stone’s proper use. This left me boggled for quite some time, though it did amp up the sense of accomplishment. Maybe that’s the whole point?
Pandora’s Tower is a good game, pure and simple. Some issues prevent the game from being the best swan-song to the Wii possible, but I would definitely recommend everyone at least give the game a try.
I fell in love with the characters, though, and I see many people forgiving their own complaints for the same reason. Games with such a strong sense of emotion don’t come around often and Pandora’s Tower definitely has that in spades.