* Prices may differ from that shown
One of the best games for the Wii, Pandora's Tower is an exploratory RPG. It put me in mind of a cross between Shadow of the Colossus and the first Diablo, but is darker-themed than either. Aeron has sneaked into the Harvest Festival to watch Elena, the girl he loves, sing. Instead she is struck down by a curse that begins transofmring her into a monster, and he and Elena have to flee the city when the army tries to kill her. With the help of Mavda, a witch, they journey to the one place where the curse can be broken, which is where they find out the price...the only way to break the curse is to eat flesh from monsters in the tower - and Elena's faith forbids her to eat meat. As Aeron, you venture into the 13 towers to kill monsters to find the flesh, but if you take too long Elena's curse will progress and you will come back from the tower to find her partially transformed. However the flesh will not keep so you can't leave her with a supply, meaning your exploration has a time limit on it. The flesh from stronger monsters can start to break the curse, while weaker monsters slow it temporarily, meaning you can buy yourself more time. The core of the game is the relationship between the leads. If you take too long and Elana transforms partially, the relationship will suffer, while if she transforms and effectively dies, the game ends. Also, the stronger the relationship, the stronger one of your weapons gets, making it a good idea to stay on her right side. The impact of Elena's predicament may be lost on younger or more callous players, but it is part of the game's impact. Elena is a nicely designed character, trying to help and remaining upbeat despite her awful curse, and one who most players want to protect - particularly once Aeron's investigations reveal the truth behind why she was cursed. Aeron is a trained soldier and has two weapons - a sword that does damage and a magic chain he was given by Mavda that enables him to restrain monsters to extract flesh. The chain gets stronger the better the bond between Aeron and Elena, one reason to spend time with the girlfriend. Combat is using these two and dodging to survive and subdue the many monsters roaming the towers. The controls are very flexible, using the nunchuck and wii-mote or classic controller. The downside is that it takes a while to get the hang of it no matter which you choose due to complexity and the requirements for precise positioning. (Aside from the monsters, you have one other enemy: the camera hates you. In some rooms you need to move constantly to make sure nothing can attack you from off-camera) In gameplay terms the towers you explore are laid out carefully, and as you open areas you can break locks and create shortcuts that let you get back to the tower far faster than you came. One thing I didn't like was the constant respawning of monsters in rooms you left - while it makes it easier to get monster flesh it can get tedious. The time limit can lead to player panic when you can't find flesh and time is short, or if you have to choose between pressing on and turning back to save her. It also adds another factor to boss battles, so you have to consider not just how long it takes to beat them but also how long it takes to get back. Outside the tower, the (transformed?) Elena and Mavda await you in the obervatory overlooking it. They can give you hints and advice or you can get items from them. Mavda sells then while Elena can give them to you in return for items. This is where much of the story is discovered, through exploring and discussion. In some ways this is more of a horror game than an RPG, but it is outstanding and probably one of the best games on the Wii. It's twelve rating is well earned, however, and the scenes of Elena choking down meat are hard to watch. With multiple endings and cut scenes triggered by your choices, this also has replay value. Pandora's Tower is one for horror fans, and mystery buffs alike. Graphic content may deter younger players however.