Warlock's Tower is a fun little throwback puzzler that slowly and intelligently builds in difficulty and scope across its 100 plus levels.
Warlock's Tower is finally making its way to consoles after first releasing on PC and mobile platforms over two years ago. Good news, too, because the retro style puzzler is just as good in its transition to a more couch play friendly setting as it is on either of those systems. Featuring more than 100 different room-sized levels for players to explore, Warlock's Tower offers around 6 hours of (mostly) fun complex puzzle-solving. These elements alone would be enough to result in a slightly above average throwback title, but Warlock's Tower brings in a fun life-based system that truly makes the title stand out.
The humorously self-aware premise of Warlock's Tower is simple enough: players must take their Tim the Mailman protagonist through every level of an evil warlock's tower to deliver a letter. As Tim gets closer to his goal, the challenge naturally increase. This is one of the game's biggest strengths. Unlike a lot of retro-inspired titles that insist on tossing players into the fire immediately, Warlock's Tower opts for a slow build when it comes to difficulty. The first half-dozen or so rooms are focused on learning exactly what the title is about and figuring out its mechanics. It's an approach that casual gamers will be thankful for.
Of course, when things get challenging in Warlock's Tower, the game doesn't hold back. Like most puzzle games of its kind, this one is from a top-down perspective with 8-bit inspired graphics. Some rooms are much bigger than others, but the goal is always the same: reach the exit somewhere in the room (designated with a flashing arrow). While this sounds simple enough, Warlock's Tower implements a lives system where each individual move in the room reduces the player's 'lives' count by one. This mechanic is expertly weaved into the game's equally impressive map design and it adds a whole new layer to the puzzle genre.
While lives in Warlock's Tower are finite, scattered throughout each map are designated pick-ups that award more lives (usually 3 or 5). Players must be careful in which order they pick these lives up in, however, as they do not stack. So if you pick up a 5 and then a 3 immediately after, your lives reset back down to 3. The key to success (and where the game encourages strategic thinking) is figuring out the best logical order to pick up lives and reach the door in time. Sometimes players will also need to find a key for the exit door, which adds a whole new wrinkle.
Puzzles, escape and life management isn't the only thing to worry about in Warlock's Tower, either. As progression through the tower is unlocked, players will come across various creatures in each stage of the map, from zombies to slime monsters. These creatures all have different habits and attack patterns that they follow where critical thinking and recognizing these patterns is vital to success. It's with this eventual slow build into absolute chaos that Warlock's Tower really shows its teeth as a puzzler, and there are moments where it seems absolutely impossible to progress. But the game is never too overbearing, and solutions often come with time and utilization of the game's mechanic that allows players to move the camera freely over the map.
While Warlock's Tower is a game with surprisingly few flaws, not everything works as intended. Some levels require switching between Tim and random characters found throughout and while some of these rooms are exciting and challenging in the right ways, there are a few that are just complex for complexity's sake. This is counter to the rest of Warlock Tower's solo Tim outings, which bring just the right amount of difficulty and accessibility. Finally, even for its relatively low cost, the length of the game is a little disappointing, mainly because it doesn't really offer much incentive to replay rooms. Sure, there are unlockable mystery rooms once you reach a certain percentage completion, but these are few and far between.
These are relatively small complaints though and not nearly enough to detract from the absolute brilliance that most of Warlock's Tower ascends to. Mostly mechanics, design choices, and random moments of hilarious text-based dialogue (including plenty of fourth wall breaking) work in conjunction to create a deeply entertaining and layered puzzler experience. It may be a short journey to the top of the tower, but it's a fun, challenging journey you'll be glad to have embarked on.
Warlock's Tower releases on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita on May 29, 2019. It was previously released on PC and mobile in 2017. Screen Rant was provided an Xbox One copy for the purposes of this review.