Watching the sparse trailers leading up to release and not much else, I definitely expected this game to lean way more into it's Wario Land inspirations. Don't get me wrong, the game is very much a love-letter to Wario Land, 4 especially, but I definitely wasn't expecting as much high-speed platforming out of this game. Pizza Tower feels like a cross between Wario Land 4 and something akin to the Sonic Advance games, and honestly I think that result is way more interesting than if the game played it safe and just made a straight-forward Wario Land successor.
The stages are great and each have a fun central mechanic to differentiate them (I especially loved the Golf level and the FNAF parody.) They introduce an interesting mechanic, flesh it out a bit and then end the level before any sort of fatigue settles in, and the escape sequence is one of the most genius ways to end a platforming level while testing the player's memory of the level, and it will always blow my mind this mechanic wasn't adopted much after WL4. Combined with the excellent high speed controls it gives Pizza Tower a breakneck pacing that keeps up all the way through to the finale. The animation also sells this frantic energy with its fluid 90s gross-out cartoon style and ,combined with the powerups, (usually contextualized as something terrible happening to Peppino) really sells this as a wacky adventure with a protagonist who is equal parts bumbling idiot and acrobatic master. I also think this game makes great use of it's status as an unrated indie game, allowing the game to dive into weird, crude or disturbing imagery that Wario Land 4 could never fully commit to due to its status as a Nintendo game, but always hinted at. Oh and the music is fucking insane, utilizing some great sampling and maintaining a high energy throughout the whole game, the escape theme especially is one of the catchiest songs I've heard in a game.
The bosses were also surprisingly fun and represented the biggest difficulty spikes in the game. I spent an embarrassing amount of time on a couple of these bosses, but they all felt fair and had a lot of charm, the third and fourth bosses especially. I almost wish there were bosses that made better use of the powerups in a unique way, but I also appreciate the relatively straightforward battles as a way of breaking up the platforming.
My only major gripe with the game is that, while incredibly fluid and fun, the controls felt unreliable at times. I played with a Dualshock 4 and encountered quite a few bad inputs, partly due to my own incompetence, but also because I think this game has very sensitive controls which don't play too nice with a joystick or the crummy dpad a lot of modern controllers have. This feels more like a game made for the binary inputs of a keyboard, but I just don't like playing 2d platformers on a keyboard, so I'm left having to choose between multiple less-than-ideal control schemes. If controller settings got tweaked or I found a controller that suited the game better, I'd have zero issues bumping this up to five stars and really commiting to P-ranking every stage, but as it is now I think that would frustrate me more than anything.
Overall though this is a stellar 2D platformer and an excellent love letter to Wario Land 4 that, at times, surpasses its inspiration and feels like a true evolution of that game's formula. I think Wario Land 4 had the slightly better stages and was a little more consistently enjoyable, but coming up a hair short of one of the best 2D platformers EVER is really not something to shake a stick at.

Reviewed on Feb 06, 2023