Review of Pandora’s Tower – a chain of attacks

Tuesday, April 10th 2012. | Games News

Pandora's TowerIn its twilight months the Wii has found an unexpected niche for itself, playing host to some of the most innovative Japanese role-players of the generation. But although they’re often spoken of in the same breath there is otherwise no connection between Xenoblade Chronicles, The Last Story and Pandora’s Tower. Not in terms of developer, genre, or quality…

Although Pandora’s Tower can be described as an action role-playing game it’s the sappy female lead and high fantasy art design that draws the greatest comparison with its would-be peers. But the similarities really are skin deep, not least in terms of the startling speed with which the game sets up its premise and throws you out the nest to start beating up monsters.

In fact so abruptly does the game being that we thought for a moment we’d put in the wrong disc (not that there is more than one). A festival is interrupted by a demonic being, who targets the lead dancer. The predictably androgynous protagonist then helps her escape, with the aid of an old witch with a giant Weeble skeleton on her back.

Once you escape to an abandoned fortress overlooking 13 mysterious towers it’s made clear that the girl is cursed and slowly turning into a goopy slug-like monster. The only way to cure your love interest-to-be is by… feeding her monster entrails. (She happens to be a vegetarian and is none too pleased at this supposed cure.)

Much more detail is added to the back story as the game goes on, but frankly it’s unnecessary and uninteresting. There’s really only one justification for the game and that’s throwing around your hook chain weapon to score your girlfriend her daily vittles.

Although you do have an upgradeable sword as well the ‘Oraclos Chain’ can be used for much more than just melee combat. Monsters can be ensnared within it, you can trip them up, drag them around and even attach the other end to another monster – and ensure that damage to one is felt by the other.

It’s the sort of imaginative use of the Wii remote that Nintendo should have been encouraging for years, as you target enemies with the pointer and then rip shreds of flesh off them with a flick of the controller. The chain is used to even more imaginative effect in the various boss battles, while also doubling up as a grappling hook to swing across gaps.

It’s a genuinely great invention and if Pandora’s Tower had concentrated on being a straight Devil May Cry style action game it would’ve been a far stronger title overall. Unfortunately the combat isn’t that nuanced though, with clunky, skill-less combos and a main character that is nowhere near the athletic equal of Dante or Kratos.

The rest of the game is even more mundane, with bland environments, a very restrictive camera, and insultingly simple puzzles. The difficultly curve lurches skywards around the halfway point, which alone will probably be cue enough for most people to give up.

In its favour there’s a constantly ticking timer marking how long before your girlfriend becomes completely slug-ified. You can take back meat from lesser enemies to keep her topped up but what she really needs is the insides of the boss waiting at the top of each tower.

But the script is as dry as dog chocolate and the characters are never interesting enough to really care about, or even describe as unlikeable. The visuals are similarly dour, and although occasionally ambitious they only seem to emphasis the Wii’s limitations in terms of resolution and horsepower – rather than obscuring them.

But unlike the creators of Xenoblade and The Last Story, developer Ganbarion are much less experienced games makers – most of their discography to date being One Piece anime tie-ins. They do show great promise here though and Nintendo are wise to allow them to experiment on the Wii, before hopefully sharpening their skills on the Wii U.

Whether you necessarily want to pay for this preliminary sketch of a game largely depends on how desperate you are for more core titles on the Wii. This is by no means a bad game but it’s an obviously flawed one, and nowhere near the quality of its two coincidental contemporaries.

In Short: There are some clever ideas at work here, particularly the hero’s primary weapon, but a lack of gameplay refinement and bland storytelling fail to make the most of it.

Pros: The Oraclos Chain is great, and the timer and consistently fast pacing are very welcome. Some cleverly designed boss encounters.

Cons: Despite the gimmicks the combat lacks depth, and the environments and puzzles are bland and repetitive. Dull characters and poorly realised visuals.

Score: 6/10

Formats: Wii
Price: £39.99
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Ganbarion
Release Date: 13th April 2012
Age Rating: 12

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