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by Clay Halliwell
(courtesy Jaguar Explorer Online)
After years of waiting, false starts, canceled agreements, and last-minute deals, the Jaguar finally has its first (and only) true RPG... Towers II: Plight of the Stargazer.
//// Enter the Daggan
Like the original Towers (released for the Falcon), Towers II is set on the island of Lamini, where your merry band of adventurers is still shipwrecked after an unfortunate run-in with some pointy rocks. As the nicely presented intro relates, the titular stargazer is a wizard by the name of Daggan. Seems he's been acting strangely of late... ranting and raving, blowing things up at his castle, and exhuming the corpses of dead mystics. Everyone who goes to find out what's up never returns, up to and including all of Lamini's knights and high council members. Oh my.
It's at this point that the sheriff resorts to you. In exchange for entering Daggan's towers and apprehending him, he offers you a keep of your very own (a keep to keep?) and as much treasure as you can grab inside the tower. Being poor and bored, you of course accept.
//// Tower Power
Towers II is a single-player, single-character, first-person RPG. The game environment is very Alien vs Predator-ish (but with lower ceilings). The entire game takes place within Daggan's tower. There are 11 floors, which you can move between freely via stairs, teleporters, and the occasional hole in the floor. There are two types of game saves you can perform-- a complete save to RAM (unfortunately lost when you power down your Jag), and a partial save to the cartridge. This partial save includes only the bare essentials... your inventory, stats, position, groups of monsters killed, and major objectives completed.
Before you start, you select and roll your character. There are four characters to choose between:
The character selection you make determines the range of the stats you roll for that character. The stats are:
Fortunately, you can immediately re-roll a character if you don't like the numbers that come up. The character selection you make has a real outcome on how you play the game. For instance, Gerand can only cast a handful of the available spells, and Merton is too frail to wear any armor.
Once you've created a character, you're placed on the ground floor of Daggan's tower with only the clothes on your back (why do videogame adventurers never bring weapons with them?).
The user interface is relatively simple. Pressing the joypad moves and turns you in the usual way. Your character has rather a lot of inertia... if you've stopped and press forward, it takes a full second to start moving. This can be extremely annoying (and fatal) when trying to weave around monsters in combat. The game uses every available button but one on the joypad. You can't change button assignments, but the layout is optimized for use with a ProController. Pressing the shoulder buttons lets you sidestep, and the most commonly used keypad functions are mapped to the X/Y/Z buttons. Unfortunately there is no keypad overlay included.
The game runs full-screen, with health and mana bars at the top and a compass in the upper-right. Your currently-selected weapon bobs, Doom-style, at the bottom of the screen. A press of a button bring up additional overlays-- a spell canvas on the right, which gradually fills with icons as you find spell scrolls, an inventory on the left, and miscellaneous text displays in the lower center. The drag-and-drop inventory management system clearly shows its roots in the Falcon... to pick up items you go into inventory mode, click on an onscreen object, and drop it into any available inventory slot. You start with only four inventory slots (forget about collecting every bit of treasure you find), but this can be increased by finding bags and backpacks. Equipping is done by moving inventory items into boxes overlaid on a small human figure.
The mouse-based functions of Towers II can be somewhat of a hassle. Your cursor moves much too rapidly, forcing you to tap-tap-tap the d-pad to position the cursor where you want it. You even have to go into inventory mode to open doors (yep... stop and click on the door).
Your health is whittled away by enemy attacks, and can be regained only by sleeping or drinking a healing potion. Sleeping is implemented rather oddly in Towers II. To go to sleep, just punch the Sleep button... anytime... even in the middle of a fight. Weird. Health is regained at a fixed rate, so the more powerful you become, the longer you have to sleep to fully heal. You can only sleep when you're not hungry, so be sure to carry some food with you at all times. Happily, "summon food" is one of the first spells you find.
There is an excellent automap feature, which maintains a full map of every level as you explore, and you can view the map of any level at any time. Naturally there's no way to fit these maps on the cart EEPROM during game saves, but the game makes a valiant effort to reconstruct your map by looking at the monsters you've killed and the goals you've achieved.
//// All Out of Bubble Gum
//// Head Games
//// Final Ratings
A Summary of Ratings: "*" is a whole "+" is a half 5 stars Maximum
|Graphics - ***||Decent frame rate and wide variety of monsters, but limited textures, short horizon, and some graphic glitches.|
|Audio - ***||Good in-game music, and sound effects are in stereo!|
|Control - ****||Your basic dungeon-crawl interface. Excellent use of ProController.|
|Gameplay - ****||An effective combination of role-playing and real-time combat.|
|Overall - ****||Well worth the investment. You'll want to finish it at least once as each character.|
--reviewed by Clay Halliwell for Jaguar Explorer Online
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