Many surprise titles can make their way through Apple’s App Store, and 99 cents can give you a surprising amount of charm and replay value if you spend it the right way. Game Stew’s Tower of Fortune is one of those surprisingly charming titles, fusing the excitement of slot machines with the stat building of a traditional RPG. Though the game’s currency mechanics fall apart as you advance closer to the top of the tower, Tower of Fortune offers a great way for gamers to get a quick fix of excitement.
ToF is by all rights an RPG; you have a character with levels and stats, you gain experience by battling monsters, you can get money and buy items to enhance your abilities in game. Where this game becomes different: practically every event in this game is controlled by a spin of a slot machine. Whether you’re battling monsters, grabbing loot, or drinking beer at the tavern, a slot machine will dictate your results. The picture on the first reel determines the event while the second and third wheels increase the first wheel’s effect when they match. One sword spun in battle will do a bit of damage to the enemy; two or three swords will do even more. Caution: spinning skulls on the slots allows the enemy to attack you. Your character’s level and weapons factor into the damage as well as the level of your enemies.
Enemies are randomly generated based on the section of the tower you go into. You’ll also randomly encounter bosses in each section of the tower; they have more strength and HP than normal enemies, but defeating them gets you a new item in addition to whatever money you obtain. Each time you beat a boss it gains strength for your next encounter, giving you reason to take good care of your hero. If your character dies at any time you lose all your items and levels, though you keep the money you’ve gained. You might feel invincible by the time you reach level 20 or 21, but I can tell you it’s a heartbreaker to get critically hit and lose hours and hours of gameplay.
Though some may not like Tower of Fortune‘s slot-generated randomness, it’s the slots that make the game stick out from other casual RPGs. Watching the reels spin brings some excitement to the randomness already found in most turn-based RPGs, and it makes the game itself more approachable. The game also generates side-quests to complete while in battle, objectives like “Match 2 swords” or “Gain 60 EXP.” Completing quests gains you bonus experience and sometimes provides a reason to risk one more spin even in a desperate situation. All of the elements of the game fit together nicely, particularly in the lower levels of the tower, but the game’s weak link is its currency system, which seems to be designed to almost force you to pay for in-game gold to clear the tower.
Each section of the tower requires a certain amount of gold to unlock, then a lesser payment each time you enter it again. The lower levels may require 160G, 320G to open, and those are reasonable given the amount of gold you might win after a boss fight. But eventual tolls of 6,400G and 12,800G are VERY HIGH considering that you might only get 300G after beating a high-level boss. I’ve also had many situations on higher-level floors where I actually gain less money after winning a fight then I paid to enter the floor in the first place, which also makes it hard to build up a large bankroll. This system almost forces you to buy in-game currency with real money to finish the tower; a practice familiar to free apps, but feels a bit cheap on a paid game, even if it’s only 99 cents. I could understand paying for higher-level weapons or special items to let someone skip sections of the tower, but pigeonholing players into making currency purchases feels like bad business.
Money issues aside, Tower of Fortune is still a lot of fun to play at 99 cents. At the time of this review’s publishing the game is on sale for free, so paying for currency might not feel like as much of a problem. There are tons of hours of casual fun to be had just spinning the slots and seeing what happens, and even if you decide to stop playing the game before the upper levels you’ll still get great RPG gameplay plus more action than a dollar would get you at the penny slots. Try your luck at this game and odds are you’ll end up a winner.