2.5 out of 5. A lighthearted and more RPG-focused interpretation of Dead Cells that, in spite of some wonky design choices and stiff enemies, will still provide a few hours of relaxing Roguevania fun.
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How Metroidvania is it? Low Fit. Tower Hunter: Erza’s Trial does not have Ability Gating, and its progression is linear, however each level rewards you for exploring - and you'll probably die if you don't.
Primary Challenge: Melee Combat
Time to beat: ~8 hours
Review Info: The Steam review code for Tower Hunter: Erza's Trial was provided by the developer.

More Info

Developer: IceSitruuna
Publisher: IceSitruuna
Sub-genre: Roguelite
Features: Map System, Skill Trees, 2D Platformer, Procedural Generation, Melee Combat, Fast Travel/Teleporters, Power Fantasy, Level-Based, Sexual Content/Suggestive Themes
Difficulty: Low
Linearity/Openness: Level Based
Platforms: Windows, Steam, GOG
Release Date: 2019/10/12
Available Languages: English, Japanese, French, German, Finnish, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Simplified Chinese, Swedish, Traditional Chinese

Store Links

    Steam    GOG    

Buy Tower Hunter: Erza's Trial if you like…

  • Roguevania Games
  • Leveling Up
  • Trying a variety of builds
  • Goofy diialog with an amusing English translation
  • Collecting clothes and dressing up

▼ Review continues below ▼

Tower Hunter: Erza’s Trial (Which I’m just going to call Erza’s Trial from here on out) is another interpretation of the ever expanding “Roguevania” genre. I don’t really like making an entire review about comparing a game to other games, but I really can’t talk about Erza’s Trial without bringing up Dead Cells. If you’ve played Dead Cells, you’ll know exactly what to expect here. You start at stage one, and gradually traverse through maze-like stages – with regular boss fights – until you reach your final destination. If you die, you start all over from the very beginning and lose some of what you’ve gained. The biggest difference between Erza’s Trial and Dead Cells is that Erza’s Trial is much easier. Part of this is an emphasis on leveling up instead of skill-based “git gud”, but also because the battle system and boss design just isn’t as finely tuned here.

Erza’s Trial gives you plenty of opportunities to make your character more powerful. In each level there’s a midway checkpoint allowing you to refill your potions and spend your collected crystals. Right from the start you’re given access to everything you need to overpower yourself, and while there are a lot of choices, most of them equate to either “Kill things faster” or “Survive a little longer”. The most important level-up item is expanding the quantity of “Chips” you can equip, which also provide stat bonuses. While the crystal-based stat system is pretty static, all of the factors that make Roguelite games appealing are also here. Thanks to the genre’s random nature, each run forces you to try a new approach to play, and you have to make creative choices on the fly. Within variety, it’s fun to power up and finally destroy your foes.

Tying much of your power to the level-up system could potentially be frustrating if you’ve lost all the chips that make up your chosen build, but “breaking the system” isn’t too hard to do. Every character feature uses the same cost structure, so early level-ups are always going to be cheap. Ironically, the way these level-ups are scaled, many of them represent a double dose of power on that first level up. On my final run of the game I had (randomly) collected a pile of “Critical Hit” chips, and was able to double my critical hit chance for a paltry sum of crystals. After that, everything kind of just exploded in front of me, one-punch man style. There’s some novelty in that feeling that you’re somehow subverting the system, but of course that novelty wears off once you realize there’s not much left to the game after that.

“Breaking the system” also doesn’t really matter if the bosses are pretty bland and pretty easy to predict anyway. Each boss starts out slow and gradually gets faster (similar to Dead Cells), but the patterns never hit a point where they’re particularly threatening. Some bosses don’t even seem like they’re aiming at you; they just shoot at some corner because the gods of coding are dictating their fate. When they do have a pattern that could be dangerous, the i-frames from your dodge button will give you plenty of time to find their blind spots. Granted, if you’re not building enough defense, you’ll probably be one or two shot if you make a mistake, but if you go into Erza’s Trial knowing anything about Roguelikes, there’s actually a decent chance you’ll beat it on the first go.

The ease of the bosses is juxtaposed against some wonky level difficulty. The fourth area is a tremendous step up in environmental hazards and big tough foes, which is odd because the curve snaps back like a rubber band in the last area. Regardless of this weirdness, the level design for most of the stages is as basic as it gets. Each level has, effectively, the same environmental assets just color coded to whatever the area’s theme is. Walls are placed down like how a randomized maze would look from the top down rather than how an actual place would be, with only the occasional background decoration to mix it up. It leads to some really dull level structures that, while reminiscent of the original rogue games, doesn’t make for terribly interesting Metroidvania exploration. Some of your most important power increases come from items hidden within the level, so it’s rewarding to check every nook and cranny before moving on, but I was very grateful that there are teleporters scattered in the levels to reduce the amount of time this takes. The final area is perhaps the best when it comes to being an interesting place to explore, so the game does end on a good note in regards to visual variety at least.

I have to briefly touch on the story, even though I always say that it’s not a major sticking point when it comes to these kinds of action games. As a native English speaker, Erza’s Trial has some very amusing localization quirks. Some sentences seem very childish for the adult NPCs that are supposed to be speaking them, and some of the grammar comes off as something that came from Google Translate. There are a lot of fourth wall breaks in the dialog though, so the language issues only add to the goofiness of the presentation, almost as if the Engrish is intentional. I personally found it humorous and thus more entertaining as a result, but I know some people may just find it annoying. If you go into the game invested in the plot at all, you’ll probably be disappointed. Erza’s goal in becoming a warrior is to avoid marrying some slimy Otaku. There’s some not-so-subtle symbolism in the final level about fighting against the typical expectations of women, which as a total literary analysis nerd I had some fun with, but the ending plays too quickly. It’s possibly a symptom of the other localization problems, but as a result the game doesn’t really finish off in a satisfying way. Set your expectations accordingly and you can still enjoy the gameplay for what it is.

Erza’s Trial is flawed in many ways, but it is a pretty fun time waster. If you found Dead Cells too frustrating, but liked the idea of it, then what Erza’s Trial offers might be something you like more. If you’re looking for a good challenging game with high amounts of variety though, I would argue that Dead Cells is the better competitor between the two. Neither of them are very “Metroidvania”, with Erza’s Trial being even less so since it doesn’t have any choices on routes you take to the end, but that isn’t to say you shouldn’t still check them out as a fan. If you enjoy leveling up and overpowering yourself, Erza’s Trial is bound to give you 3-5 hours of enjoyment, but don’t be too surprised if you get bored with its replay value past that point.


Final Score

2.5/5

Scoring system overview


Metroidvania Breakdown

Combat
– 3

Enemies are generally stiff, and boss patterns are pretty easy to figure out, but the core character building is fun enough

Platforming
– 2.5

Platforming can often bog down whatever seed you're in. It's not bad, but it's a pace breaker

Exploration
– 2.5

The level design is as basic as it gets. You're rewarded with some important stat boosts for exploring the whole thing, but the areas just aren't interesting

Puzzle
– 2

No puzzles to speak of. Not a focus

Story
– 2.5

The dialog translation is very amusing to me, but looking at the story from a critical standpoint it's a little incoherent and the payoff is lackluster

Graphics
– 3

The graphics are mostly good, but the animations are stiff, with the occasional anomaly with wonky collision

Music
– 3

The opening level theme song is extremely catchy, but the music quality sort of wanes as you progress

Replayability
– 4

Being a rogue-lite there are hundreds of ways to play this game, and it's a fun enough time waster to try various things


Want a second opinion? See what other reviews say:

Steam Reviews
Recent: Mostly Positive
(73% of 45 Reviews)
All Time: Mostly Positive
(78% of 1,115 Reviews)


TBD Metacritic
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