Poor Egbert. He’s a tiny homeless sorcerer who dreams of having a lofty tower. No humble single-storey cottages for this little guy. Fortunately, he’s not bothered that, while I’m quite happy to help him, I’m also a person who builds things quite poorly. So poorly in fact that the Leaning Tower of Pisa would look quite flush compared to the swaying, floppy towers I’m offering up. I’m just glad that Egbert has some magic up his sleeve to make up for my slack engineering.
It’s a mix of physics and magic with this latest indie game from Giggly Mill Productions. Somewhat like a highly advanced game of Jenga, you’re given the task of building tall towers out of a set of prescribed blocks. Once it reaches a given height, press a “play” button in the corner to see how your creation holds up. Egbert then emerges ready with a spell. If your tower manages to stay above a certain level in the time that it takes Egbert to cast the spell, then everything you’ve built becomes fixed in space, thanks to Egbert’s magic. You’re then given a new height that you need your tower to reach and it’s a matter of using your previous foundations and a new set of blocks to try and get there.
It’s a cute concept with equally-cute artwork – the kind that is reminiscent of many European board games. The game also throws enough curve balls for you to feel continually challenged. There are obstacles that you have to build around, spires that Egbert demands you must use, and items that you are encouraged to reach for with your towers. These items can be traded in to help make some challenges easier, such as removing obstacles or displacing a previously-laid spire. Later on, there are also environmental obstacles such as wind and rockfalls for your top-heavy towers to contend with.
As you get through the levels, you’re also given chances to pretty up your towers. Decorative building items are awarded at several stages and you can customize these with different colours. It’s a nice touch, but as a super goal-oriented person, I found I wasn’t invested in making my towers aesthetically-pleasing. Egbert himself doesn’t award you any extra points either for making his home more beautiful – thankfully, because, despite my best intentions, what I’d end up building would look more like someone ate Lego and then threw up all over the screen.
I did end up playing The Tower of Egbert obsessively for a few hours straight, but as a heads-up, I found the beginning hard-going. The game suffers a bit from its minimalistic approach. And while I’m a fan of not having bloated tutorials, the game’s lack of worded explanations meant that I ended up doing a lot of trial-and-error at the start. Granted, the mechanics aren’t a difficult concept to grasp, but there were a few other things that felt clunky to begin with. For one, it was sometimes difficult to precisely place a block where you wanted it to be. Thank goodness for the “undo” button! The grey blocks also sometimes blended in with the similarly-coloured background, making it rather hard to see what you’ve done at times. And if you finish a chapter, I was hoping for some celebration (e.g. a little dance from Egbert or seeing him appreciating his tower) but all that happens is that you can advance to the next level. Call me a sucker but I was looking forward to seeing more of our little sorceror! Obviously, these little things aren’t make or break, but together, I was left just wanting a little bit more.
After I got used to the controls and understood what the mechanics and limitations were, Egbert was able to receive tower after rickety tower from me. I can’t say personally that I was super-invested into the story, but that may just be me. However, for those who like accomplishing engineering feats in the face of ridiculous odds, The Tower of Egbert will give you plenty of hours of gameplay.
This review was based on the beta version and some features and gameplay may have changed since the time of publishing.