If you’re like many American families, you spent a good portion of the last few weeks caught in a cyclonic whirl of close family, distant relatives, and childhood friends with whom you have varying levels of retained closeness. There’s only so many ways you can summarize the trials and tribulations of your previous year before it’s time to have another glass of eggnog.

Wouldn’t you have rather spent that time dropping chandeliers on those same relatives, or bombarding them with flurries of arrows while you dodge similar treatment? With the New Year come and gone, it’s too late now to change the past, but next December, consider bringing Towerfall: Ascension to your holiday celebration.

For a game with the precise tuning of a Formula One engine and a depth roughly on par with the Mariana trench, Towerfall: Ascension sure does wear humble clothing. There are only three buttons: jump, shoot, and the slightly more complex dodge/catch button. That one is by no means essential to play, mainly because it’s useless unless you have the reflexes of a wild Sumatran tiger.

A single shot is fatal, usually pinning your enemy to a wall or sending them sliding across the floor like a hockey puck. But you only have so many arrows. Landing on your opponent’s head produces the same result, so even if your quiver runs dry you’re still a credible threat. It all looks exceedingly simple, familiar to experienced gamers and easy for first-time players to get their bearings in.

What Towerfall: Ascension does with that simple premise is what pushes it from a solid, scream-filled afternoon to a game you and your family can return to year after year. Powerups tweak the basics in screwy, wonderful ways. Drill arrows, for example, ignore the first piece of scenery they hit, allowing shots through the floor or ceiling. Dark orbs plunge the level into shadow, making it harder to see pitfalls or locate arrows. Wings let you jump forever; a shield will take a hit for you, once.

You can play Towerfall: Ascension by yourself or with a friend in Quest Mode. But I believe the game burns best and brightest in versus, with four players all doing their best to off each other. The chaos on screen, with arrows flying pell-mell and players kicking the bucket left and right, is nothing compared to the fracas around the TV, though. When was the last time you remember playing a game that made you scream, push and grab at your fellow players? Because Towerfall: Ascension does it, and in a wholly better way than Monopoly.

I could go on, but I think everything else I have to say can be summarized by a few words I normally hate to use: this game is fun. But gosh darn it, it is! It’s brilliantly designed, beautifully executed and it is so very fun. Pin your brothers to the wall. Get blown up by your aunt. Make Towerfall: Ascension your new holiday tradition.

This article was written by

Roy Graham is a writer, boxer and live action roleplayer based in Brooklyn. He’s interested in emergent narrative, monster love stories and wizardry