Ugh, you kids these days with your franchises and your spinoffs and your action figure sets! We didn’t have none of that when I was a kid! We had to use our imaginations! Also powerful narcotics! And we had to walk three miles uphill to play Bard’s Tale!
OK, maybe not. But coming from the ancient days of 1973 (yes, 1973 AD) you can’t imagine the impact that Star Wars had on toys. Before that, you had your 50 cent bag of plastic army men from Walgreens, you had a cowboy capgun revolver, you had some dinosaurs … it was all, to be technical, higgledy-piggledy. You didn’t know what the hell you were playing. It was awesome! Free-range unstructured childhood.
And then …
… suddenly there were these things called action figures, and there dozens of them, hundreds! With an entrenched backstory and collector’s sets and different editions to make sure that no matter how many you had, there as always more money to be spent. Imagination became structured. You weren’t “playing” (which, being boys, normally meant setting your toys on fire) you were playing Star Wars.
Of course, I could be wrong. I was … wait, lemme bust out the abacus … like 5 when Star Wars came out. Maybe there were GI Joe action figure sets in 1970, and I only see it from this perspective because the release of Star Wars was perfectly timed to when I started building memories. It is sometimes difficult to distinguish reality from how we perceived it at the time. For instance, I’m not sure if Skyrim perfectly captured the fantasy imagery of my youth, or if my imagination was shaped by some common frame of reference that Skyrim also tapped into.
I guess that’s true of all art – artists walk the line between being specific enough to resonate with the audience without being so specific they lose the reader. And I’m not sure, anymore, how much of that is just blind luck.
I’m also willing to bet that whatever insane genius came up with “Deadly Tower of Monsters” didn’t play with the same random toys I did, but he still somehow managed to capture both the insane eclecticism (is that a word? It is now.) and, more amazingly, the color scheme of my childhood.
I’m pretty sure he didn’t have my toys because most of my toys came from the dump. Oh, don’t worry, this isn’t some Serana-level sobfest. My family owned the salvage rights to the municipal landfill, where we repaired and sold what we could, and sold the scrap to the recyclers. Being 5 years old, all the worthwhile toys went to me. Trust me, it was better than the matchbox cars at the Woolworth’s.
But it did mean that very often my plastic army men would be assaulting giants dinosaurs on a “jungle is adventure” playset, none of which were designed to be played with together. There just wasn’t, back then, a shared set of images that kids had the way toys franchises have now.
So it baffles and frightens me how much Deadly Tower seems teleported straight from my 1970’s-era bedroom. For example, I had one playset that was just a giant plastic 3D hill, with tunnels and earthworks, that I think was supposed to be some form of WWII battlefield set, but ended up being the setting for everything from dinosaur island to Tatooine.
And it was exactly this shade of brown:
Unless it wasn’t, and my memory is just painting it that color now that I’m playing DEadly Tower, or maybe that’s a very common kind of brown, like, I dunno, “dirt” brown or something … but it hit the nostalgia button so hard I went out the next day and bought sum Lincoln Logs.
Deadly Tower of Monsters is presented as a DVD rerelease of a cheesy B-movie, complete with “Director’s Commentary” worth of Mystery Science Theater 3000. You play Alec Baldwin … I mean, Dick Starspeed
who crash-lands on Planet X (I don’t even know if it has a name, but if it does, I’m willing to bet cash money it’s Planet X) where he must, for reasons that still are not clear, blast the everloving hell out of everything.
Oh, and there’s a Tower. Also, you have the assistance of the Emperor’s Beautiful Daughter
’cause you gotta have an Emperor’s Beautiful Daughter. It’s union rules.
I’m playing mostly as Stacy, because it’s a 3rd person shooter (and smasher, and, uh, whipper) and if I have to look at someone that much, I’d rather it was an attractive blonde rather than Alec Baldwin (I use the same philosophy when choosing dentists.)
but basically, Deadly Tower is a hodge-podge of every B-movie trope ever made, all mixed up in a cheesy 70s aesthetic, including plastic palm trees and dinosaurs.
Man, they don’t make movies like that anymore … because in the 80s, crappy exploitation “suspense” movies took over that market niche. In fact, in my mind, “B-movie” really means “50’s sci fi flick,” which is why I was actually kind of surprised to see Lizard People –
who are definitely “Planet of the Apes” era monsters. Then I read that the “Director” was supposed to have been a fan of 50’s B-movies and channeled that spirit into a movie made using 70’s imagery and technology.
Which brings up back again to Art … it’s clear the studio did their job here, because playing this is like being a kid again, except of course for the parts with Stacy and the whip.
But to be able to channel a backstory so well I can work it out just from the color scheme and artwork …
Also, the game is pretty fun. I should mention that, before I go completely off the rails here. If it weren’t for the fact that I’ve been sick for 2 days and doing nothing but playing Skyrim, I’d tank this post and try again tomorrow, but I’m sure the new day will only bring further beer-related diversions, and I really want to get back to Skyrim, so … here’s a picture of Kong, because of course, this flick is gonna have Kong
and while I was gonna go into how some of the traps and puzzles of the game also evoke 70’s era playset nostalgia, I’m just gonna drop this here video instead:
and close with mentioning that while the game did evoke some heavily awesome associations for me, it also managed to be cinematic in a way I don’t get with Skyrim or Fallout. There’s a point where Stacy has to run up some stairs while Kong is pulling them down behind her, and I felt like I was simultaneously watching a movie that I was also in, and it was frackin’ awesome.
So in conclusion, as I go play Dragonborn before dropping into blessed unconsciousness, go play dis game.