Charging onto PC comes Pizza Tower. Developed and published by Tour De Pizza this fast-paced indie-platformer sees you playing as Peppino Spaghetti as he tries his best to save his pizzeria from certain doom. Charge headlong into a collection of creative and brilliantly designed levels as you ascend higher and higher up the titular tower. I won’t lie, Pizza Tower is one of the best games I’ve reviewed this year.
Sporting brilliant visuals, a fantastic soundtrack, and brilliant gameplay this pizza-flavoured title commands your attention. Sure, this game isn’t for everyone. And it isn’t perfect. Goodness, some might say it can be a tad repetitive. But there is a reason why this game is the current hottest thing in the indie-gaming sphere at the moment. With all that said, let’s get into the review!
Pizza Tower is available on PC via Steam for $19.99 USD.
Story – Speedy Delivery
In Pizza Tower, you assume the role of Peppino Spaghetti. A hapless and nervous pizza chef whose restaurant is in crippling debt. To make matters worse he is confronted by the evil pizza monster Pizza Face. He warns him that if he doesn’t climb the titular Pizza Tower, Peppino’s restaurant will be destroyed by a laser! So he sets off on a quest to save his restaurant from certain doom.
Whilst it goes without saying Pizza Tower‘s story (as is much of the title to be fair) is wacky and quirky. With a profoundly irreverent tone to it. And in all honesty, it is one of the funniest games I’ve reviewed in a long time. Every inch of it is brimming with personality and a wild-eyed charm that is hard to ignore. From the theming of the levels, to the title cards for each stage, as well as the dialogue boxes you get from some NPCs it is all well written for what it is and needs to be.
Sure, your mileage on the comedy will vary. But I get a kick out of much of it. And given the response to the game online many others have too. Pizza Tower doesn’t have any deeper subtextual meaning to it. It is just simple knockabout fun. It is intensely cartoonish with every level having an extra element of comedic flare to it to spice things up beyond your usual ice world, fire world, and city world tropes.
From a more utilitarian point of view, the text in the game is easy enough to read. Even if it is stylised in such a way it feels like it fell out of a 1990s Nickelodeon comic book. The tutorial text is clear and concise enough to understand. Granted this is partly aided by how intuitive the controls can be. All in all Pizza Tower has been a breath of fresh air to review even just as far as how fun and funny the writing has been alone.
Gameplay – Thick Crust
Pizza Tower is a 2D Side-scroller Platformer. Your goal is to lead Peppino through each level, collecting pizza toppings as you go. As well as any hidden treasures there might be. When you reach the end of a level, you knock down the John Gutter, which opens the level’s exit back at the beginning of the level. You then have to reach said exit within the time limit otherwise you’ll meet with an unfortunate fate.
As a whole, the gameplay of Pizza Tower feels like it owes its biggest debt to Wario Land 4 on the Gameboy Advance. With the levels having a similar feel and flow to them. In addition to the countdown race back to the exit. This isn’t a bad thing. As it is a solid idea to build a game around. And unlike the Wario Land series, this title puts more of an emphasis on momentum and platforming. More so than that series’s focus on puzzle solving and exploration. This isn’t to say Pizza Tower lacks those, just it isn’t as much of a focus. Of the more recent titles I have played, it feels closest to Anton Blast. But again, it has enough of its own gameplay identity to stand on its own.
You can control Peppino using a controller or keyboard. Both handle decently well, however, I have to say that the controller is the better option. And I used it for most of my playthrough of Pizza Tower for this review. Though it is good to have the choice. In either case, they are easy enough to learn. Even if pre-existing muscle memory on my part from the Wario Land days has me pressing the wrong buttons at times. But that is a problem for me, more so than a problem of the game.
Even if you aren’t familiar with the other games already mentioned in this review the game is still easy to get a grasp of. The rhythm of each level is easy to learn. Even if there are a few quirks here and there; some will feature sections where you switch characters. Or have to ride a giant sausage. And even extended sequences using certain power-ups. All of which help to keep the experience fresh. But never change the flow too much that it ruins the feel of them. Aside from the mini-golf level. That was a nightmare.
Whilst there is a greater focus on platforming in Pizza Tower than in some similar titles this isn’t precision platforming. Whilst a certain degree of quick reflexes and timing are needed to complete some sequences it never feels too oppressive. And any sections that are difficult aren’t the kind that cannot be thwarted with trial and error. In general, the game has a decent difficulty curve to it.
However, Pizza Tower’s boss fights are deceptively tricky. And were the most challenging thing in my playthrough for this review. At first, they appear to be fairly typical for a game like this. However, they have a couple of quirks which take them to the next level. Each boss has at least two stages; their initial version then a second faster stage with a few new variations of their moves thrown in. The second is that most bosses have a final challenge to deal with. These can range from quick time events to escaping the boss. If you fail these then they can regain health or kill you outright. And given how hard some can be it can be a bit much to have to redo some fights because you didn’t catch the little pepper guy in time.
Here we go again!
I think my biggest issue with Pizza Tower and has been the biggest downer on playing through it for the review is the fact the game can be terribly repetitive. Whilst there is a commendable amount of variety within the levels. At the end of the day, they all follow the same loop. Find the toppings, trigger the countdown, and get to the exit. And whilst there are a few power-ups thrown in here and there they don’t change things all that much. And are often exclusive to that stage.
They are only ever really used for the sake of solving a puzzle or defeating certain bosses anyway. And whilst they can spice things up you don’t really see them beyond the level they are introduced. Whilst it can make some levels feel more special and unique for having them, it does mean having to learn a whole new one in the next. And even if this wasn’t the case. The gameplay of each level feels almost identical to one another. Which might be too much for some gamers.
To be blunt. Despite the positive reception this game has received, I fear it will be seen as a “Meme” game. Something that is just silly, wacky, and largely disposable. Something that is a step above your usual gaming Youtuber fodder by virtue of the gameplay being more involved than the typical games that exist in that realm. But to look at Pizza Tower like this would be a critical misunderstanding.
Pizza Tower, whilst it has a sense of humour, is no joke. It has a drum-tight and perfectly executed core gameplay loop with it (and many other aspects of it) feeling master crafted. Whilst it might be seen as repetitive for some it is still a great and often fun loop. And quite honestly I feel I will be hard-pressed to find many platformers better than it this year. Beyond that, it could easily be a contender for game of the year. I will admit that it isn’t for everyone as its style might be too niche for some.
Graphics & Audio – Pepperoni & Salami
I’ll admit dear reader. Talking about the graphics and art design of Pizza Tower in the context of a review like this is hard to do. Just about everything I have to say about it at best sounds like damning with faint praise or just flat-out negativity at worse. So with that in mind I find the art style of Pizza Tower often crude and sometimes grotesque to look at. And I mean that in the best possible way. It evokes a look and feel of certain Saturday morning cartoons from the 1990s. The likes of Cow & Chicken, Ren & Stimpy, that general era of hyper-expressive and harsh-looking characters. And whilst it doesn’t venture quite into gross-out humour as they did. It still has an arresting look to its character and world designs.
This great art style is further brought to life with some fantastic animation work. Not just in the cut scenes but also in the game itself. Pizza Tower is brimming with a level of personality that puts much of the industry to shame. Not just in the indie sphere but the industry more broadly. The level of care and craft that has gone into this is stellar. There are few words to really describe it. Whilst it is not a graphical powerhouse of a title this is easily one of the best-looking games I have played in a very long time.
Cheesed to Meat You
It isn’t just Pizza Tower’s art style that is class. The music is astounding. Having a feel of it that is of the era it is referencing yet has a contemporary quality to it. True, part of this is due to the sound quality itself. Whilst the game in many regards is a throwback to the 1990’s the audio lacks the pseudo-retro compression that some similar titles have. Whilst this is a title that wears its influences on its sleeves it is still self-aware enough to not become too self-indulgent.
I will grant you that the soundtrack won’t be for everyone. It has a level of bombast that at times feels like it is drowning out the game. And other times feels like it is trying to compete for your attention over the game itself. Whilst never distracting there are times that the music is so good I’d rather listen to it than bother playing the game itself.
Pizza Tower was reviewed on PC.