Deadly Towers is almost unanimously voted as one of the worst games of all time. And you know what? It is. Rarely have I ever played a game that is as inscrutable as this. It commits nearly every game design blunder you can imagine and even creates some of its own. Yet despite all that I don’t think the game was purposely designed that way, I honestly think they didn’t know any better. I’ll give them credit for being ambitious. But that sure as hell doesn’t mean I would ever recommend it under any circumstances. There is a reason the game has such a legendary reputation.
The first thing you need to understand is that the Prince is a gimp. Rarely has a protagonist in a video game been so useless. Your only means of attack is a single throwing dagger. You can only throw one at a time, very slowly. If you miss you are pretty much screwed. On top of your lacking power the Prince can only suffer three or four hits before death at the onset. There are items that boost your attack speed, radius, and defense but you won’t find those until you venture into one of the game’s dungeons.
I can almost guarantee everyone’s initial experience with Deadly Towers involved walking into one of the game’s many dungeons accidentally and getting lost. The world map is littered with eight Zelda style dungeons. There’s only one problem: you can’t see them. There is no visual indicator for each dungeon’s entrance. You won’t know until you walk into it. This is just the first of many ridiculous design decisions. Leaving isn’t as simple as walking back out either. Both the entrance and exit are in different locations. And get this: each dungeon is comprised of close to or over 200 rooms.
Yes you read that correctly. Even the earliest dungeon at the start has 167 individual rooms. Its absolute madness and unlike Zelda there is no map. While I’ve made the comparison to Zelda that is only surface level. There are no puzzles to solve in these massive beasts. Each dungeon has five to six shops with different items on sale; the only catch is you have to find them.
If you’ve played Deadly Towers before you’re having a PTSD flashback right now.
The beginning period of Deadly Towers is the roughest. You need to enter the dungeons at first since they are the only source of new gear. Surviving long enough to find the shops is rough as the game suffers from terrible enemy placement. It’s not uncommon to enter a room with four enemies at the entrance and die before you can move. Once you do find the shops you’ll have to grind excessively to afford the gear. You even need to buy potions to refill health regularly! While weak the basic equipment you can buy is needed so that you can at least tackle the game’s true challenge; the seven towers.
That’s right. The dungeons are completely optional. Or at least they would be if it weren’t for the fact that you need their starting gear. As ridiculous as the game’s onset is the towers are even worse despite being a straightforward climb to the top. The strongest enemies in the game are housed in each and without even basic equipment you’ll die in seconds. And once again the best gear is hidden behind false walls and parallel worlds (I’m not making this up!) that you would be hard pressed to find on purpose. There’s a nasty feedback loop going on in the game. The absolute best gear in the game lie in the towers. But to reach them you need the starter gear from the dungeons.
The towers are about the only decent thing about Deadly Towers. This aspect is nonlinear although some are more difficult than others. The enemies have predictable patterns which lessens the frustration and the layout of each tower is more or less the same. The boss battles are exciting if a bit simple but at least they are something different. You can tell I’m struggling to say something decent which goes to show how bad the game is.
It goes without saying that Deadly Towers is insanely difficult. Surviving even the very first minutes is a torturous process and you’ll have to grind excessively to escape that point. Even with end game gear it is still possible (and likely) you’ll die in seconds. There are slight ways to gain the system. Heart containers that raise your maximum health are in set locations. If you die you keep any equipped items but also any health gains. More importantly the heart containers respawn. If you are up for it you can reach the maximum of 299 which does help. Once you’ve geared up the game is somewhat tolerable even though all of its insane design decisions still exist. It’s almost as if it were made for a strategy guide. Except this was a 1986 release and strategy guides didn’t exist. Just so you know, there is no satisfying conclusion.
Deadly Towers fails on every conceivable level. Even with a full walkthrough and maps it will be one of the most frustrating gaming experiences of your life. There really is no reason anyone should ever bother with this unless they have a hole in their head. This truly is one of the worst games ever made.