What is it? A platformer inspired by Wario Land and '90s cartoons.
Expect to pay: $19.99 (Steam)
Developer: Tour De Pizza
Publisher: Tour De Pizza
Reviewed on: Steam Deck
Link: Steam page (opens in new tab)
Nintendo classics have always been ripe pickings for indie reimaginings. Series like Mario and Zelda have directly inspired greats like Shovel Knight and Tunic, and you can’t walk five-feet without stepping into a new metroidvania. But I've often pondered, where were the Wario Land revivals? Its mix of high-speed platforming, exploration, and anarchic, slapstick energy made for some of the Game Boy’s crown jewels.
Well, looks like I wasn't the only one to have that thought—in the last few years, we’ve suddenly had an influx of Wario-likes, from the breakout-inspired Antonball Deluxe and its upcoming sequel Anton Blast, to a Doom mod called Treasure Tech. Pizza Tower was announced right at the start of the trend, back in 2018, and now it's finally here. Turns out it was well worth the wait.
We join aging pizza chef Peppino Spaghetti as he's sitting in his pizzeria, worrying about making enough to keep the lights on. Suddenly, he’s paid a visit by the nefarious Pizza Face—who is, of course, a giant floating pizza with a face. Pizza Face informs him that his home—the titular Pizza Tower—will soon shoot a giant laser at the pizzeria, destroying it instantly. And so begins Peppino's high-speed quest to climb the tower and stop his cheesy nemesis.
As you can probably tell, the game revels in the absurd. On top of the Wario Land inspiration, it also blends in the vibes of off-beat '90s cartoons like Ren & Stimpy, for a potently wacky mix.
Peppino himself is a joy to control. He may be a timid, and anxious little chef, but he plays like an army tank with a Ferrari engine. He has a grab attack, a dash, a super jump and a dedicated taunt button which doubles as a parry—a swiss army knife of satisfying platformer tools. And even when he's at a full, manic sprint, the game is incredibly tight and responsive. It feels poised to be the next great speedrunning game, at its best evoking the glory days of Sonic the Hedgehog.(opens in new tab)
Outside of boss fights, Peppino is invincible, with hits instead only taking away from your overall score—an idea that's complemented by a Devil May Cry-esque combo system. This also plays into the game's creatively grim power-ups, which submit him to all sorts of punishment—including being set on fire, turned into a cheese monster, or flattened into a sentient pizza box. He suffers for his delicious art, but it never slows him down.
Pizza Tower boasts 19 levels of platforming goodness, each of which has its own set of secret areas and treasures. Throughout these levels, you need to rescue the captured, sentient pizza toppings (yes, sickos, pineapple is one of them). Each one nets you cash, which in turn is used to unlock the boss of each of the game's five hub areas. The toppings are usually hard to miss, but the secret areas and treasures will test your exploration skills—though none feel unfair to find.
Each stage has its own wild gimmicks, from a chicken who sits in Peppino's hat granting him extra maneuverability with its flaps, to a claw that grabs him and swings him around by his overalls. It's impressive that, with how much variety there is to discover, it really never stumbles, and it speaks to the versatility of Peppino's moveset that he fits so seamlessly into so many different scenarios.(opens in new tab)
The game's bosses are equally as inventive. You’ll face challenges like a gun duel with a sentient cheese cowboy, or a brawl with Peppinos arch-rival, The Noise, a mischievous gremlin who may or may not be based on a certain '90s pizza mascot. I won’t spoil it here, but the final boss and subsequent finale of the game are both incredible, and match the likes of Bayonetta for sheer spectacle.
Throughout the game, the vibrant pixel art invests every enemy, item and background with twitchy, madcap personality. Peppino himself never speaks, and yet he feels like a rich, full character purely on the strength of his animations. Each level's title card takes that art style in a new direction—from a Terminator pastiche, to a homage to Castlevania. It's all a joy to behold, and it's genuinely funny, bursting with visual gags that had me cackling out loud more than anything I've played in years.(opens in new tab)
That's complemented by an appropriately intense soundtrack, which combines retro-styled themes with clever sampling in a way that reminded me of Jet Set Radio. My personal favourite tune has to be It's Pizza Time, which plays as you race against the clock to escape each level after its finale—it's an absolutely breakneck song that couldn't more perfectly put you in the mood to blow through a stage.
Pizza Tower is an unashamed ode to Wario Land—but in my eyes it has eclipsed it. Before, I was eagerly awaiting a new entry in Nintendo's series, but now I'm not too fussed, because it's hard to imagine it being as inventive and exciting as this imitator. It takes what made that series so great, and expands on it tenfold. The result is one of the best and most satisfying platformers out there today. To put it simply: you knead to play it.