As brutal war rages in the land of Airatose, a small band of adventurers sets sail to join the battle. Seeking to end the tyrannical reign of the despot Sagon, the adventurers' journey is interrupted when a vicious storm lays waste to their ship. Marooned on a mysterious island known as the Land of Towers, the four men acquire odd jobs to fund repairs to their ship. During their stay, Lord Baniff learns of their intentions and lures them into a trap: a 15-story tower full of monsters, booby traps, and other assorted bad humor. Do you have what it takes to escape the tower and defeat Sagon? This is what Vatical's Towers: Lord Baniff's Deceit for the Game Boy Color asks.
At its heart, Towers: Lord Baniff's Deceit is a first-person dungeon role-playing game. Not only is the game unique in its 3D viewpoint, but it also allows two players to link up and play the game cooperatively, a first for a Game Boy Color RPG. After you choose one of four characters, you must explore every nook and cranny of the 15-level prison for keys, equipment, and clues for passage to the next floor. Monsters confront you at every turn, while hunger, thirst, and fatigue also play important roles in your safety. The game has two main interfaces. The first, action mode, lets you walk forward, turn, attack, or conjure a spell. In this mode, your focus is the game screen - watching the corridors and caverns of the dungeon unravel before your eyes in true 3D splendor. Should you run across a switch, press A. Is there a monster in your way? Press A to wail on it with your fists, sword, ax, or any other implement you've acquired. The game's second mode is status mode. By pressing the select button, a pointer appears onscreen, allowing you to perform a variety of tasks such as picking up equipment, using keys, or equipping items. While this may sound mundane, it's actually one of the best aspects of the game. This section of the screen also lets you eat, drink, sleep, equip weapons and armor, store items, create spells, use keys, save your game, and see your character's stats. Speaking of stats, each of the game's four characters has different innate abilities. Gerard is heavy and strong, while Andros is quick and nimble. Tasler has hit points and stamina aplenty, and Merton is the game's mana-imbued deity.
Unfortunately, while the game's interface is spectacular and the 3D viewpoint is scrumptious, there are a few gameplay irks. First, while the dungeons change color every so often, each still looks remarkably similar to the last, meaning that you'll need patience to avoid a sense of fatigue. Secondly, while there are over 20 monsters to interact with, the weaker foes crop up far too often. Sure, it's nice to be able to pick up a new weapon or steal some boots, but killing the same goblin 40 times eventually gets a bit tedious. To add to the ennui, you'll have to gather and try a large number of keys to escape the tower. While the first few levels require only six or seven keys, later floors raise the number to epic proportions. If you're into a more active and varied RPG experience, these issues may turn you off. However, if you're the type of person who enjoys realistic situations, taxing puzzles, and the ability to perform a plethora of real-life tasks, you may just find Towers: Lord Baniff's Deceit fun to play. You'll have to, as other than the game's FMV intro, there's not a great deal of plot development to be found.
Whereas the gameplay is "take it or leave it," Towers' visuals effectively create a 3D dungeon-exploration experience. Not only is Towers in 3D and real-time, but it's also fluidly animated, with only a slight hint of choppiness. Even though there's a lack of color in certain things, such as floors, walls, and enemy monsters, the game is a joy to observe. Admittedly, the repetitively confusing nature of the dungeon environments does diminish the game's visual impact somewhat. Still, if you're the type of person who loves mazelike role-playing quests, you'll probably find the murky environments to your liking. It's too bad the game's sound didn't receive similar treatment, though, as the overly repetitive background music and clunky attack effects do little for the game. While it may be true that effects and music are necessary in most games, fortunately, Towers doesn't need them - which is a good thing, because the game's auditory stylings have zero effect.
The average gamer just isn't going to find Towers' quest all that engaging or exciting. Sure, the gameplay is deep, but there's no real plot development to keep a person interested. Furthermore, while the game has the looks, it takes a certain type of person to deal with 15 levels of brick walls, dark corridors, and endless keys. If you're into American-style RPGs, where the gameplay experience transcends plot and speed, you'll probably adore this game, especially if you have a friend to play with. If you're the type of person who prefers Final Fantasy or Legend of Zelda, you may wish to take a pass.