So the ultra-hard dungeon crawling rogue-like genre is overdone. How do you breathe life into it? French developer Benjamin Soulé’s solution is to take that format and smash it into a puzzle game. It works surprisingly well. The Tower of Archeos is a simple game, having you select a hero of some sort and climbing up the titular tower to fight the titular evil wizard. To do so, you select a group of monsters on the screen and clear them out with a click. You either move up by clearing the floor, or using a key to get through an unbarred door. Where the difficulty comes in is that the monsters fight back.
Every time you clear out monsters, the monsters you select can attack you. They all do a set amount of damage, and give out a set amount of gold, which doubles as experience. The goal is to get as much gold as possible from every kill so you level up before you die, which replenishes your health with a larger bar. Things get complicated, though, because most every monster has secondary abilities, like leaving traps, freezing up, or falling at a certain angle, among many other things. You can get some advantages from items from chests, but you can also buy items from merchants on the board, though this also robs you of some progress towards your next level up.
The game is all about planning ahead and weighing your options carefully. Sure, that ring that restores three hearts every floor up is useful, but you could keep a flame sword in your inventory in that spot, which can burn away the bramble enemies that prevent others from falling and clustering. You can eat some of that fruit now, or maybe risk going for a level up and save it for later. Killing a selection of high experience, high damage monsters has reward, but does it give enough reward for the damage done? The game constantly keeps you on your toes, trying to figure out the best options in hopeless situations, and you can even modify things to your own play style with different heroes you unlock via prison doors, that open whenever you bring a screen to 50% empty. Doing so also gives you another man on your climb, which is almost necessary on higher difficulties.
Speaking of which, difficulty can be modified with a board of variables you can choose from, so you can have easy runs, or near impossible ones. If the difficulty score is zero or in positive numbers (hard), you also gain access to quests, which are essentially in-game achievements. The game is all about replay value, and it makes this work with beautiful sprite work (the animations are incredible for a one man job) and constantly changing tower layout. There are so many enemy types with their own wildly different abilities, so every climb is different from the last. The thirteen dollar asking price is a bit steep, but the sheer attention to detail and inventive ideas at play make it a game well worth supporting.