One of my favorite games of 2013 was Towerfall on Ouya, though it was often a frustrating experience through no fault of its own. When I got three friends together with the intention of playing it, the Ouya couldn’t reliably recognize my controllers or keep them synced at the same time. With the release of Towerfall Ascension, I’m finally able to play a game I love without having to worry about any obnoxious technical issues.
If you haven’t played Towerfall, understanding the concept doesn’t take long. You’re one of four pixelated characters, and you need to kill the other ones. On default settings, each player starts with three arrows, and they take out opponents with a single hit (head-stomping also works). This simple concept can be augmented with a wide variety of modifiers, including power-ups that make your arrows drill through walls or explode after hitting their target, tense features like exploding corpses or the ability to return as a ghost, or a deadly option that kills you if you try to shoot an arrow when your quiver is empty. The original version featured many of these modifiers, but Ascension adds several and smartly includes the option to save match type presets. This eliminates the necessity of jumping into the variants menu every time you want to play by your favorite set of rules.
Loadout presets and being on a functioning console aren’t the only two new features in Ascension, as a quest mode allows you to team up with a buddy to take down waves of enemies. It doesn’t shake up Towerfall’s “jump around and shoot arrows” gameplay much, but it’s still fun to see the game’s take on AI enemies. They’re nothing particularly exciting, but learning the patterns of grim reapers, jumping blobs, and flying beasts is a nice change of pace from screaming at your human friends. Things start out relatively simple, but later stages turn into entertaining tests of survival as you work through increasingly difficult and numerous creatures.
When you have some friends together, Towerfall is about as pure fun as multiplayer gaming gets. It doesn’t offer much as a solo pursuit; the Quest mode isn’t nearly as much fun alone, and basic target trials with training dummies don’t capture any part of what makes Towerfall great. If you can get a few friends in the living room with you, however, this game is one of the immediate classics of local multiplayer. If you have a PlayStation 4 and some friends, you must have this game at the ready on your hard drive.