TOKOYO: The Tower of Perpetuity Review (PC)

A roguelike where you spend more time dodging than attacking? Now THAT's new.


Over the years, I've covered what seems like dozens of games in the roguelike genre. Some of those on this site include Dreamscaper and Orbital Bullet. To differentiate themselves from each other, there's always a gimmick afoot, whether it's a unique aesthetic, gameplay mechanic, or level design. With recent title TOKOYO: The Tower of Perpetuity, I'm quite enthused by not one, but two things that set it apart from the crowd. As such, it's instantly a indie hidden gem that will cater to a certain audience that might not be able to get their eyes off the screen. Let's dive right in and show you what makes TOKOYO so special!

In TOKOYO, choose between 5 different characters/playstyles, whether it be a "proud fox spirit", an "automated cleaning robot", or more!

Gameplay


Anyone versed in roguelikes knows what the level design will be - a dungeon to crawl your way through. TOKOYO's no different, as you'll encounter baddies in a room-by-room basis as you ascend the titular "Tower of Perpetuity". But here's where TOKOYO stands out: your only means of attack is a channelled ability that has a default 30-second refresh. That means there will be several seconds where you can only hope to dodge enemy attacks while you wait for your ability to be available. This piece of tension means you have to make every activation count, as they're quite powerful and differ between which character you play as. For example, the "automated cleaning robot" shoots out a firey cone for about 15 seconds. You can influence the refresh rate, your health bar, your speed, and more with item pickups, which you'll need to take down the punishing bosses. The gameplay loop is quite like Celeste's traversal mixed with Rogue Legacy's necessity of staying alive.


The second piece that makes TOKOYO: The Tower of Perpetuity its own title is that the tower switches its design on a daily basis. Whereas most roguelikes switch everything up during every run, TOKOYO players can mix up their playstyle through the same levels to improve their runs that day, while players wishing for some variety don't have to wait long for the tower to switch up. Each run will place you on the day's leaderboard and you can see where you stack up against everyone else running the same dungeon that particular day. Like Mario Maker, you can also see how many (or, in this case, how few) people managed to clear the tower. On the separate occasions I played TOKOYO, I saw a 30% clear rate one day, and a 10% clear rate the other time. It's relieving to see you're not the only one enduring the same exact struggle.

After each floor, take a break, grab a health boost, and see some other concurrent players' names traversing the same tower as you.

Visuals


Pixel art just never gets old, and TOKOYO: The Tower of Perpetuity has plenty of it. You'll be able to see some stellar artwork in the title screen and loading screens, which are so quick that it unfortunately only feels like a quick sneak peek. Within the gameplay, it's a smooth 60fps, but I experienced some motion blur when I wasn't fully-immersed - nothing more than a nitpick, but be prepared for some quick-moving screens. Whenever you activate your character's ability, you're met with a full-screen shot of the character in an action pose - a nice touch, but something I wish I could turn off for long runs. When the bosses turn into bullet hells, I felt there was enough room and leadoff time to anticipate shots and act accordingly. TOKOYO nails its aesthetic and plays great.

Other players' graves will encourage (or discourage) you as you climb.

Audio


It's almost customary that a polished indie title has a seriously strong soundtrack, and TOKOYO has just that. Intensifying during boss fights, pushing you along each floor, and easing you in on the character select screen, the music of this title is solid. The bitcrushed fighting sound effects are to be expected, but the hopping sound is a bit loud in the mix - perhaps on purpose as a strong indicator to the player for the intense platforming needed to climb the Tower of Perpetuity. In fact, there's plenty of audible indicators that are well-placed, such as item pickups, taking damage, and landing hits, all contributing to the immersion that a great deal of players will appreciate.

Conclusion


If you're as rabid for roguelikes as I am, you'll surely enjoy TOKOYO. Sitting at a nice $12 price tag before sales, its replayability is well worth the entry fee. If the aspect of only attacking in short bursts sounds intimidating, I can assure you it's a novel concept that adds a layer of suspense to your runs as opposed to impeding your survivability. It's definitely worth trying out each character to find your favorite, too. There's no glaring flaws, so if you're up for the challenge, it comes highly recommended. Give TOKOYO a try if you're looking to conquer what feels impossible to conquer.


So, why should you play it?

  • You love getting sucked into roguelikes with niche gameplay twists.

  • You're seeking a challenge that you can retry and feel yourself improve upon.

  • You crave climbing a leaderboard that resets on a regular basis.

But why shouldn't you play it?

  • You want full control of your attack frequency in action games.

  • You don't want to wait a day for a new dungeon.

A press key for TOKOYO: The Tower of Perpetuity was provided courtesy of the publisher.

 

Written by

Mike Reitemeier


Mike is a game reviewer, columnist, and writes articles for several music publications. He enjoys running meme pages, gaming, and thrifting. You can read more of his reviews and retrospective articles at qualbert.com