Press "Enter" to skip to content
Minus World

Uh oh! You've reached a glitched section of Hard Drive where the news is real!

Are You A Fan of Sonic the Hedgehog? God, I’m So Sorry. But Also, You Would Love Pizza Tower

Some video game fans have it harder than others. There are the “no games” variety of fans, like for F-Zero or Mother. Others have had their series destroyed by modern business practices, like poor old Halo. Still others are unrecognizable next to their glory days, like fans of early Paper Mario or Plants vs. Zombies. And fans of Blizzard games have been suffering for years now, though perhaps not as much as its underpaid, molested developers. Of course, there’s one fanbase that tends to have things rougher than the rest of ’em: the Sonic fanbase.

Sonic fans are divided into two main groups. The first is fans of the classic sidescrollers like Sonic 3 (and Knuckles), which simply don’t get made anymore. The second is fans of Sonic Adventure, who grew up with the series’ 3D premiere and wouldn’t mind having some more. Modern Sonic releases are neither of these. Instead, they’re a mysterious third kind of game that feels like a mishmash of the other two that neither group likes, and doesn’t even include a Chao Garden. The cycle continues.

For this reason, ailing Sonic fans often try to make their own games. The “Sonic-like” is a classic variety of indie game, some of which have found success. Freedom Planet is the most well-known indie version of classic Sonic, which performed well enough to earn an equally-strong sequel. Sonic Mania is also worth mentioning – the best modern Sonic sidescroller is completely fanmade. The Sonic Amateur Games Expo (or SAGE) is a whole yearly event dedicated to making the games SEGA won’t. And one of the demos once shown at this event has recently released in full…

pizza tower escape sequence

Outwardly, Pizza Tower is an off-brand Wario Land, another “no games” series. Its hero, Peppino Spaghetti, is a portly pizza chef who can run at the speed of sound, and is always on the verge of a stress-induced heart attack. He can “transform” when hit by certain enemy attacks, just like Wario, and his levels end in a timed escape sequence similar to the ones in Wario Land 4. But unlike Wario Land, the core of Pizza Tower is Sonic’s trademark speed.

The game’s greatest strength, setting aside its wonderfully twisted animation and suspiciously good music, is its approachability. It’s very easy to go fast in Pizza Tower. Peppino will run right up the walls and barrel through obstacles with a single button press. There’s no damage and no death: running into enemies or falling into a pit only sets the player back a couple of seconds. Even the escape sequences, which will fail the level if time runs out, provide more than twice as much time as needed to escape.

That’s where the game starts tempting the player. You’re going at a good pace, it says, but if you just rolled under the obstacle here and did a super jump here, you could go even faster. Completely optional, of course – thoroughly searching each level for treasures and secrets is worth a solid “A” rank – but what if? Wouldn’t it feel good to go faster?

pizza tower armor slide

Pizza Tower rewards those who embrace the philosophy of speed, even moreso than Sonic. In a Sonic game, suddenly running into a enemy at top speed will make the hedgehog drop all his rings. In Pizza Tower, running fast enough will make enemies scream and drop their weapons as you approach, leaving them helplessly mashed beneath your feet. Getting ten quick kills also enables Peppino’s Super Taunt – an electric pose that destroys all onscreen enemies.

All of this would be for nothing if the movement felt clunky or unnatural, but it all feels fluid and natural. Each of the stages is built with a stylish path that takes knowledgeable players through each collectable in record time. It never demands perfection, but offers a worthy challenge to those who seek it. Trying to finish a level with the highest possible rank – “P” – requires genuine mastery of each level. I’ve heard those with P describe feeling “like a god of speed”.

The game drips with the passion that can only come from a tiny indie team working on one game for five years. They may have been trying to make a Wario Land, but their result ended up being the game that starving Sonic fans deserve. I hope it can bring them some peace. There’s still no Chao Garden, though.

pizza tower a rank very nice

Pizza Tower might be for you if:

  • You like to go fast and get rewarded for it.
  • You like replaying stages to get the best score.
  • You want to see all the deranged sprite art in motion.

It might not be for you if:

  • You like to go slowly and relax.
  • You want a traditional Wario Land – ironically, the game’s skillful Sonic elements detract somewhat from the treasure-hunting Wario Land style!

Pizza Tower, released January 26, 2023, is available on Steam. Its soundtrack is on Steam as well as Bandcamp (my favorite is “Bite the Crust”). If you’d rather wait for a traditional Wario Land, consider following upcoming ANTONBLAST instead.

We\'re giving away 50 Hard Drive t-shirts and other merch items to Patrons this week.
Become a patron at Patreon!