Thursday, October 12, 2017

Review: Tiny Barbarian DX


While the majority of retro pixel art games I’ve seen come out in recent years have sported 16-bit stylings there’s also been a smaller portion of the market that has gone for a more 8-bit style. That isn’t to say the games aren’t attractive, at the resolution they’re able to run at even 8-bit games can have a very attractive look. Tiny Barbarian DX is one of these titles that is looking to hit those nostalgic beats from the NES era but it does so with excellent control, some modern sensibilities, and pretty challenging and compelling gameplay.


You’ll be taking control of this barbarian as he makes his way through a variety of worlds slaying foes, moving between platforms, riding beasts, defeating challenging bosses, and sometimes even taking a moment to flex for the ladies. Enemy variety as you progress is high enough that you’ll need to regularly adjust your strategies a bit and their overlapping attack patterns at times will force you to either react quickly or formulate a battle plan. The boss battles tend to be varied and even quite creative, you won’t simply be hacking and slashing to try to take them down. This is one particular area where I’d say the developers did an excellent job of injecting some modern flair into things, surpassing expectations set by the games it is emulating in many regards.

The great news is that while you’re adventuring through the control is spot-on and pretty well flawless. Movement is fluid, you’re able to jump, climb, grab onto ledges (bonus points), and attack with tight control that is always there with you, helping you realize that when you die the problem was only you, and not the game. With only a classic NES 2-button scheme it is actually pretty amazing the variety of attacks and moves you’re able to make and when you add in the fact that your sword swipes are able to deflect most projectiles you typically have a wide variety of ways you can choose to take down foes in different situations. This helps keep things changing up and interesting and it never really feels like you’re just going through the motions and slashing your way through everything the way this genre can sometimes feel.


One thing that helps greatly with not feeling like there’s much repetition is that from stage to stage you’re often doing very different things or even moving in different directions. You’ll go through levels that are very combat-focused followed by ones that will require some tricky platforming and then some levels will also throw something like a beast for you to ride into the mix. This all keeps the game engaging and fights away the doldrums of repetition. What you’ll find is that you will also thank your lucky stars that when you die (and you will likely do so quite a lot) you’ll only be taken to the beginning of each screen so progress is saved on an ongoing basis and you just need to focus on getting to that next screen, even if you only have a sliver of health left. It is worth noting that if you find solo adventuring too difficult you can bring on a friend to help but with games like this that always presents its own challenges.

All said Tiny Barbarian DX is an excellent throwback-style title that celebrates what was great from that era without being satisfied to hide behind it. It builds on the style of play of many classic games and turns it all into something better, all while maintaining that signature difficulty that was so common in that era. What’s great, though, is that the challenge comes from well-crafted levels and not from wonky or inconsistent control. If you’re itching for something that will make you nostalgic or just want something to suck up a fair number of hours with varied side-scrolling hack-and-slash gameplay Tiny Barbarian DX delivers!


Score: 8

Pros:
  • Terrific art and an energetic chiptune soundtrack
  • Control is king and your Tiny Barbarian’s movement is fluid and responsive
  • There are surprises sprinkled throughout in terms of level and enemy design that make it stand out
Cons:
  • From screen to screen the challenge will inevitably vary, there are absolutely some mixed platforming levels that will make you work hard to get through
  • While the game is perfectly playable in handheld mode the scale is a bit small just as an FYI
  • The pricing may be a little high, though some people will no doubt jump at a physical release

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