I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I love Indies. I love the games that come out of the minds of people who can create something smaller, and less conventional. Wulverblade is perfect example of this.
Allow me to explain.
Wulverblade is a throwback to classic beat ’em ups and succeeds for better and worse. For those unfamiliar with the genre, it involves moving left and right along a level, usually designed as a street, or footpath. Enemies come en masse, and you move up and down on the 3Dish plane, attacking them.
The game includes common issues with the genre, including the inability to hit characters that appear to be within range because they turned out to be further back than the swing zone. The bigger pain is the rigidness of the controls, where if you are swinging your blade you can’t move forwards, unless your combo initiates movement.
These elements are faithful to the genre, despite being a chore to get used to; but once acclimated the gameplay itself is fun enough. When you get the hang of the controls it becomes more fluid, and fun. That’s not to say the game is relaxing, it throws new enemy types at you until your hair is falling out. That’s how eight levels that aren’t long, took me well over six hours to beat.
Its passable gameplay isn’t what makes Wulverblade special, it’s the style and story that makes it wonderful.
Starting the campaign treats you to gorgeous cell shaded art work, with its bold colours bursting out of the screen. It depicts angry Celts who, thanks to the Roman empire, have found their homes under attack. As we have come to expect from stories about ancient Celtics, they take the fight to the Romans in gory fashion.
Thanks to its beautiful animated style, the game uses gorgeous streams of blood making it seem violent, but not graphic. That’s a series of words I never thought I’d say.
In fact, Wulverblade doesn’t pull its punches when it comes to what it shows. From the violent slashing, to limbs and heads being cut from their owners, the game shows the lot, and is the better for it. It even lets you use anything the enemies drop as projectile weapons, such as dropped swords, or dropped heads.
The care that has been taken by the game’s designers shows in the story and its massive amount of background information hidden away in the game’s extras menu. These are unlocked as you encounter them in the game, such as enemies, weapons, and other history; which you can’t help but appreciate the care and attention that has been put into its accuracy.
Rounding out the game’s style is its beautiful music and sound effects. Everything from the clanging of metal, to the fully voice acted characters was well done. Though I should note, I can’t say if the Scottish accents are accurate or not, the voice acting was good, and music is used subtly to make the game an absolute treat for the senses.
The list of elements that make the game great is essential to the ability to keep playing, as it is going to kill and frustrate you. Especially if you’re as bad at games as I am. Getting trapped with enemies surrounding you can be fatal quickly, and it only gives you three knock downs before it returns you to a checkpoint, and they are sparingly applied. This means you will be replaying areas, a lot.
Wulverblade isn’t limited to hacking and slashing though, it is also hacking and slashing quickly care of the rage bar and calling in the wolves. Thanks to the rage bar not filling too quickly, it gives an element of anxiety when you decide whether to use it. There were too many times that while I was weighing up using it, I got knocked out and lost it anyway. Fortunately, you don’t lose your wolf attack when you are knocked out, because you get one per level. This generally needs to be saved for a boss, but again, it weighs on you throughout the levels.
If you find the game too darn easy, it has an arcade mode which gives you three lives to complete the whole game. I didn’t get past level one, but it’s there for the true masochists among us. If you want to hack and slash, then the Arena will treat you to wave after wave of enemies.
As a package, Wulverblade is easily worth its price at under 30 bucks. Some painful loading screens, and genre flaws are easily outweighed by the sheer beauty of the game, and the care taken to make the story interesting, and historically accurate.
Blair received a copy of Wulverblade from the developers for review