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Pandora's Tower review

The classic boy meets girl, girl is cursed, boy feeds girl monster flesh love story

The twisted fantasy plot is probably the oddest thing about Pandora's Tower. Elena is a needy little idiot with not much going on. Aeron is an emotionally awkward, gullible sadsack who barely speaks. Somehow these two people are in love and that drives Aeron to do some seriously strange things to stop Elena transforming into a sort of human slug.

Elena is cursed, you see, fated to morph slowly into a monstrosity should she fail to wolf down the raw chunks of beast flesh Aeron brings her. This flesh temporarily returns her to her human state, but to lift the curse fully she must eat the specialised meat of the master beasts (or bosses, if you want to be pragmatic) who reside in towers suspended over an eerie bottomless chasm. It's a boy-meets-girl love story with a Clive Barker twist.

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Strange as the story sounds, it keeps Pandora's Tower rooted to one central conceit: the more time you spend away from the girl, the sicker and more beastly she becomes. Elena's health meter, which ticks down steadily as you explore each tower, is stamped permanently in the bottom left corner of the screen as a constant reminder of her deteriorating condition and an indicator of how much time you've got before you should really think about heading back and whacking another fillet of beast flesh into her chirping gob.

Occasionally, the game will cut back to show her pottering aimlessly around the house, falling over and sometimes just wistfully sighing the main character's name followed an ellipsis. A typical helpless Japanese videogame woman, then, albeit one who's found herself in a fairly atypical situation.

The flesh of regular enemies will delay her transformation long enough for you to head back into the tower and tear a chunk of meat from a master, meaning you can either try to speed-run these levels in order to grab the curse-reversing boss-meat or explore the tower more thoroughly (to find materials and new equipment) while making regular trips home to top her up with plain flesh.

Why can't you just leave a pile of beast flesh at home for her to nibble on while you're away, you ask? Because flesh dries out to uselessness once it leaves the tower, of course. There are no fridges in this weird world, sadly.

The transformation and subsequent scarfing down of flesh itself is rather harrowing. Spend a bit too much time adventuring and you'll find that when you return Elena will have slithered off into the basement leaving behind a trail of sticky, purple goo. In this state, her bubbling, blistered skin looks like molten blueberry pie as she, hiding in a corner and shrouded in shame, convulses and moans pitifully. It's grim stuff.

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If you dote on her, however and regularly return to her before the curse really takes hold, the worst you'll have to witness is a bit of a manky arm. Either way, her protesting at having to eat these grotesque lumps of raw, dripping meat is the game's heartstrings-tugging, stomach-turning mainstay (and Pandora's Tower doesn't flinch in representing the grisly ordeal, either).

Her affinity for the protagonist will increase if you treat her well, visit her plenty and shower her in gifts, while ultimately your treatment of Elena will also determine which of the game's endings you'll see.

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Towerful Stuff

So that's the backstory and your ultimate responsibility. When you're not looking after your Tamagotchi girlfriend, the action plays out in hack and slash style as Aeron traverses each of the towers in turn, first discovering the location of the boss's room before destroying the giant chains that lock said room shut, running inside and ruining the day of that tower's master.

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17 comments so far...
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  1. carnivine chaos Thursday 12th Apr 2012 at 12:59

    Didn't read the review just in case it spoilt anything, but honestly shocked at 70%. I'm sure the review explains why, but still, considering how much it was hyped before...

  2. Blue Toad Thursday 12th Apr 2012 at 13:11

    I always wondered if one of the big three games Project Rainfall kept harping on about would not be amazing in reality. It's a shame to have that thought become true.

    Pandora's Tower was easily the game I was most excited for out of the three. Now this review has put me off and I'll get Rhythm Thief instead.

  3. garsh303 Thursday 12th Apr 2012 at 14:29

    That's a bit unfortunate that the supposed 'last great Wii game/action-adventure game' turns out to be a little lower rating than expected. I would have thought it would get like, at least 86%

  4. rpgmaniac Thursday 12th Apr 2012 at 14:50

    Hi, can some1 tell me if the Japanese voice overs included in the PAL version of the game?

  5. triforce-manc Thursday 12th Apr 2012 at 15:21

    Just beat the first 'master' boss and I must say, it has been very enjoyable up to now

  6. MattEdWithCheese Thursday 12th Apr 2012 at 16:19

    I don't understand why people are complaining at a seven, sevens are good scores! I was getting a very "NieR" vibe from this one in that I felt that like that game; I would love it but a lot of reviewers would pan it so 7 is higher than I was expecting! :)

  7. TheVelvetRoom Thursday 12th Apr 2012 at 18:31

    Ever since the start of Operation Rainfall, out of the 3 games, I always saw Pandora's Tower as a rather lackluster title, and the boxart tracing stuff put me off even more. Still, good of Nintendo to not completely forget their RPG fans towards the end of the Wii's era.

  8. blackdog1979 Thursday 12th Apr 2012 at 18:43

    Does anyone think this game would have got a higher score if it wasn't hyped up so much?
    I feel like Pandoras Tower had a lot of hype to live up to.

    Just sayin' ........ :|

  9. imbusydoctorwho Thursday 12th Apr 2012 at 19:30

    I'll hopefully get a copy tomorrow,I can't wait,even if watching Elena eating a heart will probably turn be into a vegetarian.

  10. ACRID Thursday 12th Apr 2012 at 20:57

    70% isn't a bad score at all, really looking forward to this arriving tomorrow even though I won't be able to play it for another month

  11. 2Black4U Saturday 14th Apr 2012 at 01:56

    Still getting this got the other 2 (love'em), it's rare in a JRPG I praise the localised voices so far they've excellent. Other site Rate it high so I'm sure I'll enjoy it, I'll have to wait till next week to play it but i'm glade we're getting these games at all.

    Lets hope for sequels on the Wii-U :D

  12. TaleOfTheToaster Saturday 14th Apr 2012 at 21:40

    If this only got 70%, how come it still got Game of the Month over 86% Inazuma Eleven 2 and 88% Rhythm Thief?

  13. master sword Sunday 15th Apr 2012 at 16:26

    i'll still be getting it, least of all so i can say i have all 3 project rainfall games, while it may not be up there like 'the last story' and 'xenoblade' in terms of scores, i can see it being a bit of a cult classic game

  14. TromaDogg Friday 4th May 2012 at 03:04

    It's definitely a game that people should try for themselves. Whilst I wouldn't rate it as highly as Xenoblade (there's hardly any games in existence that I actually would rate as highly as Xenoblade though, lol), it's still very enoyable and a solid 85% for me, well worth buying.

  15. imbusydoctorwho Friday 4th May 2012 at 07:31

    It's definitely a game that people should try for themselves. Whilst I wouldn't rate it as highly as Xenoblade (there's hardly any games in existence that I actually would rate as highly as Xenoblade though, lol), it's still very enoyable and a solid 85% for me, well worth buying.

    I pretty much agree with this guy.

  16. Ada078 Friday 4th May 2012 at 07:58

    I don't think that is true,that is very difficulty to do that.

  17. zapper01 Saturday 12th May 2012 at 20:41

    Picked this up today because they didn't have Xenoblade chronicles in stock. I've only played a little bit, and while it isn't great it's enjoyable enough, It's not like every game I buy needs to be amazing. I'll still buy xenoblade eventually, the only reson that I haven't bought it already is that the combat sounds a bit rubbish.

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