Reverse her curse before she gets worse.
Pandora's Tower is a curious tale of love, dread, monsters, and magic that's both refreshingly original and reminiscent of the great fairy tales of old. The story unfolds quickly: A young maiden is singing at a kingdom festival, when a giant monster suddenly appears to cause trouble. Unbeknownst to her, a strange marking appears on her back. We then see her led by a man in armour, as castle guards chase the two through the alleys. A mysterious old woman, with the zombified corpse of her husband strapped to her back, appears and helps the two evade the soldiers and reach the wilderness. She tells them the girl won't be human much longer, unless something is done.
The old crone, Mavda, explains that the girl, Elena, is rapidly transforming into a grotesque, slug-like monstrosity. Elena’s only hope is for Mr. Monotonous (otherwise known as our hero, Aeron) to venture into the 13 foreboding towers that stand in the center of a bottomless chasm and bring back the flesh of each tower's beastly master for her to eat.
The goal in each tower is to explore the rooms in search of shackles connected to one of several giant chains locking the door to the respective master's chamber. With the shackles destroyed, Aeron must defeat the boss creature and return to Elena with its heart. While he's battling his way through each of the towers, a small timer, representing the progression of Elena's curse, ticks away. If the meter runs out, Elena loses her humanity forever, so Aeron (and the player) must keep a close watch at all times. Most of the towers cannot be completed in one sitting, meaning you must hack off a piece of monster meat from one of the smaller enemies roaming about and head back to Elena and temporarily stave off the curse.
On his quest, Aeron is entrusted with the Oraclos Chain, which serves as his primary weapon and multipurpose tool. The Wii Remote pointer is used to aim at an enemy or object to interact with; once the chain latches on, there are a variety of control options. Enemies can be yanked, slammed into the floor, thrown around the room, tied up, or even tethered to objects or other enemies with this marvelous weapon. You can pull switches and levers, as well as dislodge items from the scenery and collect them from afar. Aeron can use the chain like a grappling hook to pull himself toward footholds on high ledges, or even use it to swing between platforms. The chain is also the only way to yank chunks of flesh loose from enemy corpses, and the only way to damage the boss enemies. Using the chain allows for a huge range of creativity depending on how you feel like fighting, and it's a lot of fun.
Aeron also gains access to four secondary weapons he can use to hack through enemies, and collects various items which can be equipped, given as gifts to Elena, or forged into enhancements for these weapons, suits of armour, or accessories to raise stats. There's a lot to collect, especially if you plan to search out every last piece of literature hidden in the towers, which serve to flesh out the back story and give you a reasonable income—Mavda pays handsomely for the privilege of reading your tomes and texts. If enemies bash you around too much, you may find that one of your hard-sought items breaking, and you'll have to pay Mavda's skeletal companion to fix it for you, an interesting incentive to practice the dodging and blocking mechanics that become key to surviving later fights.
This is certainly a game for those who delight in body horror. The movie sequences are wrought with grotesque imagery and disturbing themes, usually revolving around close-up shots of young Elena eating lumps of raw, quivering meat until she gags on her hideous meal, tears streaming down her face. The stages of transformation she undergoes can be quite alarming, and returning to visit her with mere moments to spare will be enough to stop you from wanting to see it happen ever again.
There are a few glaring problems. While the human character models look really nice, many of the game's texture maps are quite low resolution, even for a Wii game. With all the close-up shots of various details, the pixilation really stands out. The lip syncing seems set to follow the English voices, however at times it will completely drop out of sync; sometimes Elena will even say stuff with her mouth closed. This may be a personal issue, but there's no option for Japanese voices, which does affect the clear anime-style storyline and character design. It's doubly disorienting when, at several points throughout the game, Elena suddenly starts singing in Japanese in a completely different voice.
The voice acting present is fairly bland but inoffensive; the most interesting is Mavda's portrayal. Aeron has about as much personality as sawdust, and what few lines he does say are delivered in such a dull fashion that he would have been better off not talking at all.
The designs of the first five towers are quite good, with some interesting elemental puzzles and unique challenges. The next five, however, use the same five themes in the same order, with many room designs and puzzles reused from the first set. The game makes the excuse that the two sets of towers represent the male and female gods from the game's lore and how they are equal yet opposite, but in terms of dungeon design it seems like they just ran out of ideas. Similarly, enemies seem to only come in a handful of flavors, being frequently recycled between the dungeons with very few design variations besides the amount of damage they inflict on Aeron.
I also found it hard to get invested in the back story of the game's world, the warring nations and their history and religion, which infrequently pops up throughout the game by way of narration. The story you piece together of Elena and her curse is interesting enough without these historical lectures disjointing the flow of the game, and more than once I was tempted to skip these scenes just to get back to the curse at hand.
Drawbacks aside, the game has a lot going for it. The main story takes some twenty hours to complete, with five different endings and enough hidden content to unlock after the credits roll to keep you going for some time afterwards. The dungeon-like towers are fun to explore and the master bosses are creative and challenging to fight. The whole experience has a bit of a Zelda-meets-Castlevania feel, while putting in more than enough effort to stand as its own game.