Dying in Spelunky sometimes makes me mad, but it always just makes me laugh in comically brutal roguelike Lucky Tower Ultimate

3 weeks ago 64
Two adventurers being chased by a monster with a large hammer
(Image credit: AMC Games)

You know in Spelunky when you spend a little too long on a level and a nearly invulnerable ghost that can instakill you appears and slowly chases you to the exit?

There's something like that in dungeon-crawling roguelike Lucky Tower Ultimate, only it's a naked purple dude with a giant hammer. And he's not slow or subtle: he sprints right at you, screaming at the top of his lungs. He also doesn't wait for you to spend too much time on a level: I've had him hammer me the second I opened the door to his room.

Being splattered into paste the moment you step into a level doesn't feel quite as fair as being haunted because you were blatantly dillydallying, but I'm 100% okay with Lucky Tower Ultimate being unfair. Almost every time I die it's really funny, and that takes the sting out of starting over. Dying in Spelunky sometimes makes me mad, but here it almost always just makes me laugh. It's not out yet, by the way: the release is planned for August. But there's a demo on Steam you can play today, and it's a great way to spend the weekend.

You may remember Lucky Tower from its days as a Flash game series, but if not, you begin each run at the top of a randomized tower sporting nothing but a pair of underpants and a fabulous haircut. Drop down a level and you'll find three doors. Pick one, step through it, and see out what's on the other side, which can be anything from monsters to traps to a huge blue ogre who wants to play the shell game using a human tooth.

As you travel deeper into the tower and closer to freedom, you'll find weapons and gear, potions and power-ups, and once in a while a companion or two who will follow and fight for you. You can sometimes even make them open the next mystery to see what happens. Quite often, they die horribly! Usually, you do too.

The awkwardness of Lucky Tower Ultimate is part of its charm. Your inventory consists of your two hands (sometimes you can find a little bag to keep coins in, but that's about it) so you have to constantly juggle weapons and other items, and you'll wind up leaving most of what you find behind. Only having two slots for gear leads to a lot of frantic moments and no small amount of comedy, like dropping things when you mean to throw them and throwing things when you mean to drop them, and sometimes eating things when you mean to do something else with them. I've eaten a lot of dead frogs and dead mice and goblin eyeballs, and once I accidentally hurled a corpse at a neutral creature I was trying to speak to, which resulted in him getting enraged and punching me to death. Spelunky isn't the only game with short-tempered shopkeepers.

There's also a weird wizard you'll occasionally encounter. He's given me help, like dropping a weapon or item I can use, and he's given me quests, such as asking me to find a particular item and give it to him the next time I see him. Sometimes he hands over a potion: once it made me super-fast, another time it instantly killed me. He's a tough nut to crack, honestly.

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But just about everything in Lucky Tower Ultimate is tough. Maybe the goal isn't to escape at all, it's just to have fun dying quickly and violently. Or maybe I'm just telling myself that because once again I opened the very first door and that naked blue dude instantly splattered me with his hammer.

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.

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