When it comes to new platforms such as VR, it seems everyone is always looking for the unique game that’s going to set the stage for all other games of its’ type. The next big thing is always something that is so unique from its’ predecessors that, while it may borrow some gameplay features, it still remains something wholly its own.
This brings us to Tower Tag. I had tried Tower Tag VR some time ago at a VR arcade and while I enjoyed it at the time, it was clear it was still in early access and hadn’t become the completed product it was destined to be. That’s not the case anymore as Tower Tag comes to you in a complete package.
It’s a unique experience for sure. I suppose the best way to describe Tower Tag is to take laser tag and bring it into VR while throwing a little bit of Spiderman in there as well. How the game works is you have two teams and the goal is to get the high score in team deathmatch or capture the flag type game where you have to possess a specific Tower from another team. It sounds simple, and it is, but that’s where the magic comes in. See, in order to progress across a map, you need to capture the various towers that are all over the map. Need is the keyword here as you literally cannot move without targeting one of these towers and yanking yourself to the various towers via a rope tether. It’s a bizarre setup to get a grasp on at first, but once you do, you’ll be swinging from tower to tower like a futuristic Peter Parker.
In terms of combat, it’s limited to one weapon. Your laser pistol is the only method of attack you have, but it’s plenty of fun to use so that is not that big of a deal. You will have limited coverage on each tower, so it’s very important you make your shots count. Headshots will do a ton of damage and usually drop your enemies in one or two shots while body shots take from four to five shots to down them. Teams can be up to 4v4 though it should be noted I found it difficult to find full games during my time with Tower Tag, and many of my games were two vs two or one on one. Adding a twist into the deathmatch formula is the elimination mode which gives you one life and if you lose, it’s spectator mode until the next match. I felt this mode was particularly out of place in a game like this because there are so few places to hide and not really many tactics to set up with your team considering the small map and limited places you can travel to. The core gameplay of hide and seek and shoot though is an addictive hook that keeps you playing match after match. While I enjoyed my time with Tower Tag, it does still feel like the skeleton of something that could be huge. I’d compare it right now to the first iteration of something like Fortnite. It’s got a great idea behind that needs to be fleshed out.
Additional weapons could spice things up as could some visually different arenas as well. Instead of making every tower basically the same height, why not have some far higher or lower so more strategy goes into it? There are plenty of things that can improve the experience, but for now, it still stands as a unique addition to the multiplayer shooter genre, I’m just not sure how much mileage you can get out of it.
Tower Tag is an interesting game because while it doesn’t require a lot of moving around, you’re going to need a decent amount of space to play Tower Tag because there is no in-game movement option. This means if you’re going to dodge other players shooting at you, you’re going to have to do it in real life and if your playspace doesn’t have the room move a little bit, the game will be pretty difficult for you to play.
I recorded my 30-minute workout within Tower Tag using a Fitbit. I used a Samsung Odyssey Plus Windows Mixed Reality Headset for my time with the game.
Calories burned: 93
Calories burned per minute: 3
Average Heart Rate: 93
Max Heart Rate: 97
Active Minutes: 24:45
I found the intensity of Tower Tag to be a mixed bag. On one hand, the majority of the games I played were one on one and offered barely any real physical stress at all. On the other hand, when I found the four vs four matches, it was an intense game of cat and mouse that got a good sweat going. The flipside of that is there were so few matches available with that many players in it that I’m worried about the game sustaining simply because the games are just not as fun against bots or one or two other people. All in all, my time with Tower Tag was still fun though its potential as a workout relies heavily on the player base.
Tower Tag is primarily a shooting game that will require you to raise those arms and aim true at your targets who will be swinging all over the map. The other usage your arms will be getting will be through the swinging mechanic which Tower Tag hangs its hat on. After a few rounds, the yanking motion your arm will be making constantly to swing from tower to tower in an effort to get the best position on your enemy will cause a decent arm burn and this can be balanced out to your non-involved hand by simply switching to left-handed mode. Extended-play sessions will definitely work your shoulders most of all since your aiming arm will be constantly held in front of you to aim your weapon.
How good do you want to be at Tower Tag? If the answer is very good, then you’re going to be using your legs to duck shots coming at you as well as shifting your body around the various pieces of cover available on each tower. If you prefer to play standing in place like a sitting duck, you’re not going to get much of a leg workout. The great thing about Tower Tag is it matches your body to whatever is happening in the game, so if you’re ducking that’s on you. If you’re hopping around like a crazy person trying to distract your enemy, go for it. The leg workout you get in this game relies on how good you want to be at it.
Core and Balance- 6/10
This is an interesting one. Despite having very little lateral or vertical movement requirements, Tower Tag has the ability to throw off your balance in a few ways. The first is from trying to hide behind or peek out from the virtual pillars that can shield you from enemy fire. I found myself reaching my nonweapon hand to hold the side of the non-existent pillar for support. It was a weird scenario that I haven’t experienced in VR yet and it was jarring to not have something there that I felt needed to be. Your core muscles on the other hand, can get a decent workout from all the attaching and yanking yourself to different towers that you’re going to be traveling to. Adding to that, you’re going to be reaching around the pillars and doing quick turns and twists of your body to aim at different towers and after an hour, you’re going to feel it in your abdominal muscles.
Time Perception- 8/10
The matches in Tower Tag are fast and fun and it’s extremely easy to get lost in the “just one more match” mentality. It’s also pretty easy to just limit yourself to a couple of rounds and then bow out. Though there isn’t a time limit on the rounds, it tends to move pretty fast because of the limited places to hide are few and the arena size is minuscule.
If you’re gripped by the basic gameplay loop presented here, then the replay value of Tower Tag is unlimited considering it’s primarily a multiplayer title. The gameplay is very specific though and doesn’t offer much variety which presents a problem when looking for longevity within a game. I find myself putting in a few matches every time I hop on VR, so clearly there’s a hook here that’s got potential to be something big.
Fitness Scalability- 6/10
There is not much here to alter to create a better workout. If you use hand weights or ankle weights, you can definitely get a better workout but that goes for most VR games. If you happen to have a bigger than usual playspace available, then you’ll burn more calories as you’ll be able to move around a bit. There are no difficulty modes available for when you play against bots, so your workout depends on the players you’re facing.
Tower Tag got to me a little bit in the nausea department and that comes from me being not so comfortable with heights. Since the game takes place on top of towers, merely glancing below can conjure up some serious vertigo if you dislike heights and combining that with the already shaky nature of VR and you could have yourself a recipe for some motion sickness. The swinging also caused a bit of unease as well, but after a few minutes, I got used to both and was able to fully enjoy the experience.
This is a multiplayer game, so social connectivity is the main attraction here. You can hear any player in the match whether they’re on your team or not and the interface is pretty simple for setting up games. On occasion, I found the matchmaking menu would glitch out causing me to restart from the Steam, but it only happened a few times. One issue with the multiplayer though is if you’re unable to find a game, you’re going to have to play one on one against the bots until you can find one. This means you can’t even set up a full game with bots if you wanted to, you’re limited to just a duel and that’s disappointing.
VR FIT Score- 7/10
Tower Tag shows what’s possible in VR when using a little bit of creativity. It effectively creates its own genre and while the product may not dazzle you like some VR titles, it can be addictive and the sharp gunplay and swinging mechanics support that fully. It’s also quite nice graphically to look at and has a sci-fi feel to it that doesn’t bother the eyes.
For a game that relies on multiplayer to exist, the player base isn’t too big at the moment and that can create problems when looking for matches. The game modes are also limited so you won’t find a ton of variety in gameplay here. The single pistol you’re given at the start remains your weapon throughout your time with Tower Tag and it feels like they needed at least two more to make things more interesting.
Tower Tag is available on Steam for $19.99, Viveport for $19.99, and playable on Windows Mixed Reality, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Valve Index headsets.