Towerfall Ascension and the Rebirth of Local Multiplayer


About a year ago a friend of mine who is a religious devotee of let’s play videos came over to my house and said “you gotta see this.” I turned on my Xbox, started the YouTube app, and he streamed a video of four guys sitting on a couch, screaming and giggling at the pixelated mayhem on their TV. The game was fast. Players died quick and bullets flew quicker. Power up bubbles dangled in the air. And all of it was in glorious 2d pixel art. It reminded me of the games of my youth, when multiplayer meant four friends gathered around a television yelling at each other before it was replaced with the online gaming of today, the great social experience of playing with all of your friends while you sit alone in your bedroom. Hanging out has become a radio drama. Someone will say “hold on, I’m gonna get a snack” and then you’ll hear footsteps pitter away and then pitter back over the headphones. Then the crumple of a plastic bag, the snap and hiss of a soda opening, a crunch over the mic.

“Ok, I’m back.”

“What did you get?”

“Cheetos.”

*crying is heard.

“Shit, my kid woke up from his nap, hold on.”

These days we play together, alone. It’s not anyone’s fault, the technology just changed. People’s schedules have changed. The world has changed. But more than anything, they just don’t make those kinds of games as often anymore. So when my friend showed me Towerfall Ascension, I was excited. Unfortunately, it was only out for the Ouya, a new budget game console birthed by kickstarter. It promised to be a completely open platform that anyone could develop for. And with the arrival of Towerfall and a few other titles, I started to get a little interested in it as feasibly being a new go to platform for local multiplayer. A year has gone by and the Ouya has all but been forgotten. Last I heard it had mostly just become a platform for emulators for old games. But luckily for us, the developers behind Towerfall Ascension decided to move on as well, bringing the game to the PC and PS4.

This weekend I was going on a trip and while I was packing I decided to buy and download Towerfall Ascension on an impulse when I saw it on the Steam front page. Little did I know, it would become the highlight of my weekend. It immediately sunk its claws in with my friends in Newport News and when I pulled it out at my family’s Christmas party the next day the magic took hold once more. Like all good party games, what’s key to Towerfall Ascension’s success is that it’s simple. 5 seconds of experimentation and you pretty much got the gist of it. And like all great party games, a great deal of depth lurks below that simplicity. The game involves an unexpected precision as you only start with 3 arrows which combines deliciously with its frantic quick-draw gameplay. The result is general panic. With one hit kills, the last thing you want to be is the one who doesn’t shoot first so you’re always reluctant to stand still long enough to aim properly and make your shots count. The sky is constantly filled with arrows and players running to pick them back up so they can shoot again. I highly recommend you pick up Towerfall Ascension for some of the best multiplayer you’ll play this year.

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