The Deadly Tower of Monsters is a game at odds with itself. Above all else, it is a stunning visual ode to the golden age of science fiction B movies, from the early days of stop-motion wizardry in the original King Kong, to the 1950s peak of the drive-in monster movie as embodied by The Blob. The Tower of Deadly Monsters takes the qualities of these films' endearing special effects and runs with them for five chaotic hours. It is also, however, a game that is content to ape B movie conventions in the context of a rote, overly repetitive Diablo-lite beat-em-up/twin-stick shooter.
The conceit of The Deadly Tower of Monsters is that you are watching a DVD of a film of the same name with commentary from director Dan Smith. Nearly every action you take is accompanied by maniacal comments from the director. The film itself follows the travails of Dick Starspeed and his two companions--an alien woman and his robot servant--as they try to overthrow an evil emperor exploiting an alien world for material gain while they climb a seemingly infinitely tall tower. It never goes any deeper.
Thankfully, looking at The Deadly Tower of Monsters never ceases to be a delight; it relishes in its artificiality, to great effect. Giant robots are clearly re-purposed vacuum cleaners. You can see the strings holding the pterodactyls in the air. The killer primates' costumes look more fake than those worn by the crew in the original Planet of the Apes. Every visual element looks like it was assembled from spare trash lying around the studio. What this game may lack in polygon counts, it makes up in sheer dedication to a cohesive, charming style.
It's a shame, then, that playing The Deadly Tower of Monsters is never half that entertaining. The game's mix of twin-stick shooting and melee-focused combat rarely strays far from "mindlessly murdering everything around you." The only tactical consideration is the limited energy meter for your ranged weapon, but because you have efficient melee options, it's almost never an issue. Once you've killed the same enemies a couple dozen times, combat begins to feel like you're simply going through the motions, and the game's limited customization and upgrade system for your stats and gear does little to alleviate the tedium.
It's also disappointing that a game that so clearly exemplifies the visual dynamics of trashy classic science fiction doesn't have anything deeper to say about the form. For the majority of its campaign, The Deadly Tower of Monsters is just a bad science fiction story; that this was largely intentional doesn't make the story any less bad. Though the director's commentary gimmick hangs some lampshades on the silliness of it all, we live in an age in which films like Galaxy Quest, Planet Terror, and The Big Lebowski have proven that satire can elevate its source material, rather than simply ape it.
As I trudged through one meaningless combat encounter after another, I found some solace in the things that surrounded me. The vibrant and tactile world is charming, and it was impressive to see the stories and enemies of hours past rushing upwards as I plummeted from the tower. While the stylistic appeal of science fiction schlock may be niche, The Deadly Tower of Monsters has silly sights that effectively recall the iconic parts of the works that inspired it, if not much else.