We’ve reviewed many games on TSA, and probably hundreds for various other platforms over the years. We thought we’d seen it all, but occasionally something arrives that shatters your notions of what makes great games great. TSA Towers, the debut by our very own indie developer Andy Torr, is one such game. Developed exclusively with the Pop-It development tool, and taking inspiration from a legendary web site, TSA Towers tells the story of what happens when good intentions go bad.
Torr has taken the traditional platformer and imbued it with a sense of pervading darkness, not only in the gritty art style, but with the perilous puzzles and characters you meet along the way. Eschewing voice acting for subtitles, he’s been able to accurately portray the text-based communication of the site you are traversing. Cameo appearances by some of the most interesting characters from the real site, with hilarious yet doom-laden dialogue, are so well crafted that replayability is guaranteed. Perhaps the best is that of Michael the Receptionist, a stunningly beautiful realisation of TSA’s most active and well-loved writer. *
Often over-used in games is music, and it’s here that Torr has stuck to the less-is-more philosophy that serves him so well elsewhere. The mostly joyful ditty that accompanies even dark moments is an amazing contrast, and when the music does change you can almost feel the atmosphere growing more tense. Eventually, you’ll encounter the mighty Nofi, towering over the game as he does the site. It’s a brave depiction, but it pays off and gives the game the extra weight it deserves.
There’s more to discover than the main story, with Torr incorporating plenty of general platform foraging and fun in order to collect everything on offer. It often provides a nice distraction from the main story, allowing you to take a breather from the heavy stuff. Torr has said he’ll send a “crappy plastic key” to the first person to ace the level, but unit sales and therefore revenue will ultimately decide that. There have been many PSN debuts over the course of the PS3’s life, but TSA Towers eclipses them all. This is a masterwork of story-led design coupled with a never-ending mix of satisfying platforming.
We await what comes next from Torr’s twisted mind with barely contained glee.
10 – Unmissable.
As this review went to press we heard that the game may be supported with DLC, including new secret areas and some previously unseen comedy subtitles. Search for “TSA Towers” from within LittleBigPlanet to find the level.
* – as voted for by Michael.