Like a dragon from a fairy tale, Nintendo is sleeping on a pile of gold. Ok, perhaps not many people would call it a great big treasure, but can we just mention some of the characters and series they could resurrect at any moment and have, instead, chosen to ignore: Kid Icarus, F-Zero, Golden Sun, Starfy, Chibi Robo (yes I’m willing to die on that hill). And that is just scraping the top of the Ninty-iceberg. Still, there is one more that is much closer to my heart, and that’s Wario Land, is the series back from the dead? Nope, but we got the next best thing: an indie developer coming in to pick up the slack with Pizza Tower.
The 2D Wario Land series, originating as a spin-off of the Game Boy’s own Super Mario Land, would be the first game starring Wario in a playable main role. Since that original title, many developers have tried their hands with the greedy garlic eater with varying results (does anyone remember the Virtual Boy title?). For better or worse, the series has been lying dormant since the Wii’s Shake It (or Shake Dimension), which was 15 years ago. So who could pick up the slack? Apparently Pizza Tower had to step in.
Pizza Tower is a 2D indie platformer starring deranged and perpetually agitated Italian chef Peppino Spaghetti. While working on pizza and pasta in his restaurant, he finds out that his quiet existence is about to be cut short by the nearby pizza tower: a place of evil, cheap Italian food not made like nonna used to. Leave it to Peppino to go all “arrabbiata” on us, swallow that spicy salami and break everything in his path to take down the evil tower. So yes, Peppino is pretty much a spicy version of Wario and Pizza Tower’s gameplay very much harkens back to that classic series.
But it wouldn’t be exactly fair to call Pizza Tower a mere Wario Land clone. For one, the style is way more geared towards classic 90s animation like Ren & Stimpy, rather than the average Nintendo game. Be ready to be served with a smorgasbord of tasty and savory animations, plus a collection of incredibly funny details on each screen. The gameplay is also quite more focused on speed and score attack, rather than simply going from start to end in each other level.
It would be fair to say that Pizza Tower plays much closer to a 2D Sonic game (or Spark the Electric Jester, if you will). In Wario Land, our titular main character usually collects power-ups that add attacks or special moves; in Pizza Tower, each level features some kind of crazy gizmo that will radically change our Peppino. For example, he will turn into a ghost, a flying pizza carton or go up one ladder on the scale of crazy Italians after eating spicy chicken. That is, until the Pope steps in to bless him, turning Peppino back to normal “ngazzad’” Italian mode.
Is Pizza Tower perfect? No, I wouldn’t say so, for me it would have been much more pleasant if it stuck to some creative level design and did not put emphasis on having to escape each level while time was ticking. Especially because, once the clock runs over, you’ll have to start the whole level over again. But the game showcases a number of crazy ideas, solid level design and love for a main character (along with a cast of misfits pizzaiolos and greedy undercover agents) that really harkens back to the glory days of ye olde 2D 16 bit platformer. Those with a mascot, remember the days? Oh well.
While the big N doesn’t really seem to be very interested in the 2D platformer genre, or at least not at this very moment, many indie developers have stepped in to pick up the slack to make fun new 2D platformers with original characters outside of Mario, Wario and Link. From Shantae to Owlboy, there’s a great selection of delectable 2D titles that harken back to the glory days of the 8 and 16-bit platformers of old. I would say Pizza Tower belongs among them, but as per your particular choice, it might depend on the aftertaste you would like to have in your mouth. Because, well, if you’re longing for some garlic-powered Italian fuel, then Pizza Tower might definitely be the right choice on the menu.