‘Pizza Tower’ serves up a compelling retro platformer


Daniel Massa

Screenshot from “Pizza Tower” with Peppino Spaghetti sitting in his pizzeria. “Pizza Tower” is a platformer with a retro style and fast graphics.

By Daniel Massa, Lifestyle Writer

“Pizza Tower” is a charming and exhilarating callback to 2D platforming games of the ‘80s and ‘90s that doesn’t cut corners — only slices — wherever it potentially could with its design.

“Pizza Tower” is a fast-paced 2D platformer game developed independently by the studio Tour De Pizza and released on Windows PC via the Steam platform in 2023. 

The game started out as a proof of concept in 2018 by indie developer McPig, the now lead of the studio Tour de Pizza inspired by game series such as “Wario Land,” “Metroid” and “Sonic The Hedgehog.” 

McPig’s creation also sported an art style similar to ‘90s cartoons like “Ren and Stimpy” and “Courage the Cowardly Dog.” After several demos, revisions and delays across five years of development, the game was finally released in January 2023, and it’s safe to say the game is a blast.

The game’s simple yet silly story stars Peppino Spaghetti, a down-on-his-luck pizzeria owner struggling to keep up with his bills. His luck soon takes a turn for the worse when a demonic pizza entity named Pizza Face threatens to destroy the pizzeria with a laser shot from his forebodingly named Pizza Tower. In no time, Peppino races to the Pizza Tower where he must travel up five floors of terror and frenzy in order to challenge Pizza Face and his goons and save his pizzeria from certain doom, as well as bankruptcy.

“Pizza Tower” holds true to its wacky gameplay and art style inspired by video games and cartoons from back in the day. Every level is filled to the brim with bright colors, beautifully illustrated backgrounds and liveliness in its character sprites, including Peppino. 

The art style of the game gives Peppino a very lively and ecstatic personality. Everything from the anxious expression in his idle animation to his look of determination and rage when he charges through the tower’s landscape at his top speed. Many of Peppino’s expressions and screams of terror reminded me of “Courage The Cowardly Dog,” yet he can switch to a full-on rage machine within seconds. Because of that, this gives the character a unique persona not seen that often with video game protagonists.

As for the gameplay, Peppino channels his inner Wario and Sonic with a bizarre and effective moveset to fight and traverse the Pizza Tower. His primary move is his dash, capable of reaching 3 separate tiers of speed. The dash allows Peppino to run up and plow through walls, kill enemies just by running into them and charge to launch up and sideways in the air.

Peppino also has a grab ability allowing him to grab, throw and even piledrive enemies. The grab and dash abilities are Peppino’s bread and butter when traveling through the levels. 

Another part of the gameplay comes with a combo system. Anything from killing enemies, collecting pizza toppings and discovering bonus levels add points to the combo meter. Once the player stops adding on to the meter for long enough, it will be added to your score total to improve the ranking for the level you’re on. 

Some of the levels in the game have a stage gimmick for that level. The level gimmicks don’t overstay their welcome in levels nor are the player left to figure things out on their own with the level gimmicks. 

Such gimmicks in the game include buffalo wings that light Peppino’s mouth on fire and can do an air dash by breathing fire, a “Five Nights at Freddy’s” inspired level that requires alarm enemies that can unleash animatronics as well as an entire level designed around golf. 

Each level also has collectibles such as pizza toppings and a janitor that opens up secret doors to collect a knick-knack designated to that level. 

Deeply exploring the levels can also unveil bonus levels to earn more points for the combo meter.

At the end of each level, a massive pillar is waiting for you and by destroying it, a message appears on the screen saying “it’s pizza time!” A timer appears on the bottom of the screen as the player is now tasked with running all the way back to the beginning of the level.

These segments are where the “Sonic” inspiration comes into play. You must race through the level plowing through enemies and barriers within a very small time limit. However, these sequences, called “Pizza Time,” also play a big part in the rankings at the end of the level.

Each level will reward the player with a ranking depending on how well they performed in the level. The highest rank to receive in a level is the prestigious P rank for Pizza. 

In order to achieve the P rank, the player must be perfect by collecting all the collectibles and unveiling all the bonus levels. 

The player must also run a second or third lap through the level during the Pizza Time sequence by going through a portal at the beginning of the level. 

In the levels, Peppino is completely invincible. However, the same can’t be said for his confrontations with the bosses. In boss fights. Peppino has a total of six hit points. 

How many times Peppino takes damage during the boss is the deciding factor for the player’s ranking. In order to get a P rank in boss levels, the player can’t get hit by the boss once, which is easier said than done.

The bosses themselves are very challenging, but design-wise they are creative and so mundane that I can’t help but love them. 

There’s the muscular red pepper named Pepperman who can shoulder-bash the player and bounce all over the walls. 

My favorite boss is The Noise, a character heavily inspired by Domino’s Pizza’s old mascot, The Noid. 

One final thing to touch upon is the incredible music composed by the cleverly named Mr. Sauceman. Each tune in the game, from the tutorial level all the way to the final boss, is headbanging goodness — not a single track in the game misses its mark.

“Pizza Tower” is a game that deserves to be in the high ranks of 2D indie platformers like “Cuphead,” “Celeste” and “Hollow Knight.” 

It’s shocking how, in a sea of triple-A games with zero charm, a small group of people who used their limited resources and time can rise above them all in order to churn out a solid product. Here’s hoping this game receives a sequel.