Here is a way NOT to try to sell a video game idea (or at least to ME, anyway):
Scene: the office of a manager at a video game company, with a programmer on his first day at the company.
Manager: First off, welcome to the company!
Cheeky new employee: Thank you, sir! I’m eager to start!
Manager: That’s good, since we’re going to have you jump right in on a new project that’s ready to be programmed.
Cne: That sounds great, sir! I’m all ready! What kind of a project is it?
Manager: It’s going to be a puzzle game.
Cne: Sounds swell! What’s it involve?
Manager: Amidst the toxic sea of planet Nebulus...
Cne: Sounds great already!
Manager:...there are several mysterious towers, which are bases of a mad scientist who's trying to control the universe.
Cne: Oooh! Getting right to the conflict!
Manager: (sighs, getting leery) Being an explosives expert, it’s your job to bring them down. However, the towers are guarded by mutant molecules, weird flying eyes, robots, and cannonballs.
Manager: But you’ve got your snowball gun that works against some of your enemies, though!
Cne: WHAT?! “Snowball gun”?
Manager: So, you’re all ready to go, once you put on your frog suit, and...
Cne: (pulls out gun and shoots manager, thinking it’s the right thing to do)
Seriously, even though it’s easy to pick up and start playing, is fun, and is a pretty well-done, original, classic puzzle game, Tower Toppler sure sounds like a very strange game when you read the above (which I paraphrased some of it straight from it’s bizarre instruction booklet, so don’t blame me). After all, this was ported around to various systems, and not all of them were Atari-based either.
Yes, in this game, you either play some kind of an alien frog-thing or you put on a frog suit (which I’m not sure, it’s not really clear) before going to work dismantling towers. The controls respond fairly well as you ascend towers by moving in all directions, climbing stairs, entering windows (which transports you to another window on the opposite side of the tower), levers that can take you to a higher or lower section of a tower, and even smacking into one of the tower denizens at one point in the game will knock down to a lower level that you need to get to.
Upon the very first time I started playing this, though, I couldn’t figure out what the big deal of it was, in regards to it’s high ratings from gaming critics and all: I’m pretty good at games in general, but I couldn’t get to the top of the very first tower. I was getting frustrated; jury duty was the next day. I didn’t need to be up late with this nonsense. How come I kept on getting killed before I could make it to the top, yet I had NINE more freakin’ towers to get to after this one that I couldn’t even get past?!
Then I realized you needed to listen to the sounds.
Ancient wise exotic dude: You must listen with your head, my son.
Guy seeking enlightenment: What the hell is THAT supposed to mean?
Awed: I don’t know, but it sounded good to me.
Gse: Geez, I climbed all the way up this (*#ing mountain for THIS?!
Awed: I was dropped on my head as a baby!
Gse: Now, THAT makes sense.
See, the thing is, among several creatures and other things to encounter during this game, one of them makes a direct beeline for your character (guess it’s attracted to frog...things). However, it makes this silly “blee-orp” sound first, and only appears at certain spots during certain towers. So once you hear it, there’s usually a nearby spot where you can get either higher or lower from the...whatever it is, and you’ll avoid it, it won’t change altitude and kill you then. So if you hear the sound and you’re right by a lift, just activate the lift, and you’ll see the thing fly far below as you ascend to a higher level in the tower. Make sure and wave goodbye (with one finger, if you prefer :P )...
And speaking of sounds – which they're somewhat sparse – they aren’t that great, however, but we are talking the same soundchip in the 7800 that was also in the 2600. The graphics are fairly good, but I thought they needed to be a bit more crisper-looking. The animation is interesting, as the towers rotate around as you move; behold the powers of an alien frog-like creature!
However, one thing that really bites about this game is that there are times when you have to make microscopic, pinpoint movements in order to proceed, which is annoying: there’s one tower where you make a couple of jumps, then obstacles appear right behind and in front of you, and if you BARELY touch either one of them, you’re going for a deadly swim. (I think this is at the beginning of the third tower; sorry I’m not more precise, but some of my video game stuff is hard to get to right now, and I don’t feel like digging around for it.) It’s ridiculous, really, kind of like the later Heart of the Alien game for the Sega CD, which can be an exercise in SEVERE frustration. However, there’s a funny cheat that’s built into the game that Atari meant to take out before it was released (but forgot, lucky us!), which, if you toggle the left difficulty switch, you can skip to whatever tower you like in case you don’t feel like starting every game over from the very beginning in order to try to figure out how to get past some of the later towers.
Unfortunately, I don’t know what kind of replay value this game has, since, if you go a while without playing it, chances are you’re going to forget what towers require what strategies to destroy, and that can be irritating; the later Fatal Rewind (aka The Killing Game Show on the Atari ST computer, I think) on the Sega Genesis is the same way, having tons of puzzles, making it hard to remember if you dust it off after months, if not a year or more of playing. I’ve personally never figured out how to beat the last tower myself. Maybe some day I’ll get back to it, as I imagine there are some people that would never go back to this game again...that, and plus there’s no difference between the bonus screens in between towers, when you go for a dip in the toxic oceans eating bonus shrimp. Don’t know why this is a good idea in toxic waters, but what the hey, you’re an alien anyway...however, all of these stages are exactly the same, it seems like these should have less shrimp/these screens get more difficult as they go along, or have at least some design change or something!
Just don’t ask me what the deal is with this so-called “snowball gun” of yours, when you activate it, it just looks to me like you’re shooting from your feet. But then, this game IS a bit weird.
The National Enquirer: Hey! What’s with the made up quotes that have nothing to do with the review?
Dunno; maybe this weird game has rubbed off on me. What the hey, it’s one of my absolute favorites for the 7800. :)