Towerfall: Ascension review for PS4

Platform: PS4
Also On: Ouya, PC
Publisher: Matt Makes Games
Developer: Matt Makes Games
Medium: Digital
Players: 1-4
Online: No
ESRB: E10+

I don’t think I’ve ever said this before in my life, but I’m saying it now: Towerfall: Ascension would be so much better if it had online multiplayer.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a good game, and in general, I can’t stand playing games online. But online multiplayer seems like it would be such a perfect fit for the game — particularly at a point in the PS4’s lifecycle where it hasn’t yet achieved total ubiquity — it’s baffling that it’s not there.

towerfall ascension 2

To back up a little, so that the preceding two paragraphs have a little more context: Towerfall: Ascension is a decidedly retro game in every aspect. Old-school graphics, simple combat, chiptune music…honestly, this is one of the few retro-inspired games that truly brings me back to being a young kid playing NES.

With this dedication to the retro aesthetic comes two less-fantastic features: a hard-as-nails level of difficulty, and local-only multiplayer. These two things, of course, are intertwined. Judging from my experience with the 1-2 player mode — I’ll admit right now that I wasn’t able to play the 2-4 player mode, since I only have one controller — this game is freaking difficult, and it really seems like it would be easier to handle if you’ve got a second person playing with you. Since I imagine that most (or at least a substantial minority of) PS4 owners only have one controller, the option to play Towerfall: Ascension online seems like it would’ve had an amazingly positive impact — and made it a little easier to boot.

That said, while the game would’ve been improved by such an addition, it’s not like it really suffers from the absence of it. Towerfall: Ascension is still wonderful, and I say that as someone who was thoroughly terrible at it. As I said, this feels like an NES game, but a really great NES game. The combat — jumping around a dungeon, shooting arrows at enemies and stomping on their heads — is addictively simple, unburdened by hard-to-learn mechanics. What’s more, even if the game is insanely hard, it’s got the same feeling of being difficult-but-relatively-fair that a lot of the best games from the late ’80s had.

towerfall ascension

Still, I’d only recommend buying it if you happen to have a second PS4 controller lying around — it’s just that designed for local multiplayer. Then again, if you’re looking for a game that single-handedly justifies the purchase of a second controller, Towerfall: Ascension is probably it.

Grade: A-