REVIEW: Ascension – Climb The Tower

Minus my many colorful phrases and the formation of all-new curse words in response to its difficulty, I liked Towerfall Ascension. I missed out on it when it hit the OUYA1 originally, so the PS4 stood in as the perfect surrogate mother, allowing myself and others another opportunity to play a really great, really challenging game.

Not just an open avenue for boob games and quick, hastily-thrown-together zombie shooters, XBLIG also functions as a ‘surrogate’ of sorts, giving indie developers the chance to capitalize on the absence of a popular title on Xbox by ‘borrowing’ said title’s gameplay, style, etc. A Clone, A Homage, Inspired By, whatever you want to call it, these games can sometimes effectively mimic the original, giving players a look at a game they might otherwise miss, at a tidy, reduced price. Ascension – Climb The Tower ($1.00) is one such instance, providing a stripped-down version of Towerfall.

Ascension - Screen

The setup is immediately familiar in Ascension‘s ‘Horde’ setting, which tasks the player with surviving endless waves of enemies on a large, static screen. You’re given a limited amount of health to start2, a barely-adequate melee weapon, and set loose to scrounge for projectile weapons (think axes, bolts of lightning) and other items in randomly-appearing treasure chests. Everything feels right here, from the easy exits on the top, bottom, and sides of the level, to the almost-brutal way that enemies can gang up on you3, all the way to the ‘damage sponge’ bosses and the helpful ability to pluck your already-thrown weapons off walls and ceilings to reuse them.

Though the initial stage assortment isn’t exactly stellar or too varied, the game does offer you a level editor to design your own. Most might not be thrilled at the prospect, but you may have some incentive to tool around with it; much like Towerfall, the four-player local multiplayer is clearly this game’s strength and the most likely to suck up your free hours (assuming you have local friends, that is).

Ascension - Screen2

And Ascension plays its role well. The art is sharp and the controls are adequate, with one glaring exception; the avatars in Ascension slide to a stop on any surface, making it harder to line up jumps (or double-jumps off walls, natch) and accurately predict your movements— as well as your enemies’ path. It’s less noticeable in a frantic battle, but especially evident in the game’s aggravating ‘Ascension’ mode, where you continually climb a vertically-scrolling tower filled with blind jumps and other hazards, with only a single hitpoint between you and death. Needless to say, you may have to spend some time (and lives) adjusting to this imprecise motion.

While it’s throwaway, that added mode and the other (better) game variations are a nice disguise to mask the rather light overall content. Ascension – Climb The Tower does feel like Towerfall at certain moments, though, making you forget about its other shortcomings (a bargain price certainly helps). More importantly, it provides an ‘entry level’ introduction to a game that some players might have otherwise passed on. Absolutely play the original if you can, but if that’s not an option, this game makes for a worthy stand-in.


  1. The system is still rusting away on my shelf, having only been played one time. Probably the main reason why I’ve taken a break from backing Kickstarter projects. 
  2. You can tweak various game settings in the options screen in order to make your life easier / harder. 
  3. Just as in Towerfall, a single ‘Slime’ can fuck you over real good. 
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24 thoughts on “REVIEW: Ascension – Climb The Tower”

  1. I’ve logged at least an hour and a half so far and it seems like I’ve still got a pretty long ways to go. If you like Earthbound and/or spaghetti westerns; then “Boot Hill Heroes” is definitely worth the $4.99 asking price. And.. oh yeh, it’s very funny/charming to boot. eh, eh? see what I did there? ahaha

    1. Oh, I saw what you did there. Very clever, so clever you could easily join theXBLIG staff and put terrible puns in every article. It’s worked for me! 😀

      Well, it sounds like a winner. Anything like Earthbound is a good thing. Now, just need to find the time….

  2. Tim I’m so glad I passed on they Ouya. I’ll give you credit for that. You saved me $100 that can go towards my next gen machine. Or should we now be calling it this gen? Oh well. I’m thinking I might be going with a PS4 mainly due to No Man’s Sky. I can’t afford both machines so it’s been a lot of debating going on in my head for many reasons as you know. 😀

    1. I’m sure it’s a worthwhile system and with some pretty excellent games, but I wouldn’t say it’s a must-own at all. Back when they were raising an obscene amount of money on KS, I just fell prey to the idea that it was going to ‘revolutionize’ the indie scene (and shake up the notion of what ‘home consoles’ were / are). It never got close to that promise, in my opinion, and as such, as never given me a reason to plug the thing back in.

      As for the PS4 / Xbox One argument, I suppose I’d still pick the PS4 over the One (at the moment), but there’s no denying that XbOne has narrowed the margin between the two systems this past year. Both are going after their exclusives now, so it’s going to come down to personal preference and which game series you love the most… again. The ‘better hardware’ argument was winning out for awhile, but both systems can run any game about the same. You can’t lose either way.

      Oh, and thanks for mentioning No Man’s Sky again. You’re making the wait THAT MUCH DAMN HARDER!!! 😛

    2. I kind of figured the Ouya was pre-empted by Sony and Microsoft’s “new” emphasis on indies; the Ouya made an impact on game accessibility, just unfortunately NOT on the console it tried to.

      And No Man’s Sky? I have frightening visions of Hohokum in my head: all the beauty and wonder … no real gameplay (or so I’ve read; I don’t actually own Hohokum although the marbled vinyl looks cool).

    3. @andregurov: I’m still not so sure about the recent indie ‘surge’ by MS and Sony. For one, all I read about is how the average player abhors indies and that they ‘didn’t pay $400 to for a next-gen system to play crappy indie games’, and two, I think it’s starting to undermine what indie games are about. Giving away all of these games as part of the PS Plus / Gold promotion is nice, and the Devs get a guaranteed paycheck, but now I wonder how some indie developers on the PS4 / Xbox One are going to fight against that practice of being free, and actually charge people. Some won’t have a problem with paying for a good game, but I think a lot more are going to say ‘Shit, if it ain’t free, I’m not playing it, I guess’, or figure to wait until the price drops, or if it does become free. It’s a tricky path.

      Not to mention, how the hell can anyone keep up with them!? I’ve literally got ten indie games on my PS4 that I still want to play through, and 4-5 on my XbOne. Good problem to have, but still…

  3. Want to slay some pesky slimes and / or your friends? I’ve got TWO codes for Ascension to give away, courtesy of the Developer. Drop a reply below here, and one of them can be yours for the low, low price of FREE!

    1. @Derp: Why not? is right, but unfortunately, you’re too late. ‘paddi101’ got the second code, despite not actually ‘replying’ to the original comment. Better luck next time!

  4. Was not expecting a review for this game. Guess I’m already looking forward to a “Boot Hill Heroes” review; that could be my new favorite xblig for 2014.

    1. Yeah, I’ve got to tackle them in order of the request, and the Devs for that game didn’t really request it, per se, so Boot Hill Heroes may still be a ways off. Is it good stuff? I should’ve picked it up on Vita earlier this year, but at the time, I wasn’t sure it’d come to XBLIG in the end. I’m curious on the length of it, actually, so I can kind of ‘pre-plan’ and set aside enough time to hopefully finish it before any review.

    2. I skipped it due to it’s price. For less than that with the sales going on I can pick up a AAA game and for a little more I can pick up a AAA game and the DLC. But just because you mentioned it I’m going to go give the trial a go and see if it’s worth the $5.00.

    3. @ImTheMetalLord: Some of the sales were / are ridiculous. I had to actually fight myself to hold off on some games, just so I could have a reasonable chance at finishing the ones I already have!

      As for Boot Hill Heroes, I figured they’d go max price on it; the Vita version was going for $7+ when I last saw it, AND I believe it was labeled as a ‘Part 1’ or something like that. That’s why I’m curious if this was the full game they had envisioned, or something that’s going to be split into parts. Either way, yeah, definitely give me your guy’s thoughts on it, as I’ll still have a few days before I can play it myself.

    4. I did the trial and the “Part 1” part freaked me out due to the pricing I imagine. However after the 8 minute trial I love it. I love the JRPG type of battles and I know I barely scratched the surface on the trial. This one will sit in my “I’ve got to get it soon” pile.

      BTW tried this game and I don’t like jumpers for whatever reason. Just not my thing.

      Oh and one more time NO MANS SKY! Honestly, I have never been so excited about a release of a game as I am this one. In fact I can’t remember the last game I had anticipated this much for. That’s just not my thing. Most times I wait till games are on sale then pick them up for cheap and I’m behind everyone else on the excitement level….but this one is different.

    5. Cool. I wasn’t too worried about it not living up to the JRPG expectations, but then again, you never know. Shame we don’t get more time in a day to get things done…

      No Man’s Sky certainly has the ‘epic’ look and feel of a AAA (I still think there’s less than a dozen people on their team), and each new clip of gameplay cements that. I can see where ‘andregurov’ is coming from with what he said above, but even if No Man’s Sky can only deliver on half of what it’s promising, it’s still going to be an excellent game about exploration. All the side stuff about ship combat could be cool, but seriously, I just want to land on one of these planets (which are nigh infinite in number) and walk around for hours checking everything out. I don’t see myself getting bored with that!

    6. Yea it’s all about exploration for me too. And hell you get bored with a planet you jump in your ship and fly to another one. Childhood dream come true in a lot of ways.

    7. @Tim Hurley: haha, that’s what I was going for. where can I turn in my application?? jk

      @ImTheMetalLord & Tim Hurley: I totally understand the time constraints. even if you cant get to it for a while, it’s a timeless sort of game so I’m sure it’ll hold its charm for a while. As for the price; if you consider the last two “Penny Arcade” games worth their weight, then one could imagine BHH is not unsimilar to those. On a side note: now I’m really curious about this “No Man’s Sky” you speak of.. though it’s probably not arriving on any system I own :/

    8. @Jordan Michael: Yeah, it’s one of those newfangled ‘timed exclusive’ deals that are becoming all the rage! It’s showing up on the PS4 first, with an Xbox One release likely down the road. How long after, nobody knows. Screws over fanboys for their respective systems, unless you’re like me.. and you buy both! 🙂

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