Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Tiny Barbarian DX Review - Channel Your Inner Barbarian!

When's the last time a game made you battle endless, increasingly-brutal foes until you collapsed BEFORE the main menu even comes up??? That's Tiny Barbarian DX for you - a story that begins with our Tiny Barbarian falling in battle. This little challenge/amazing method of teaching you the simple controls is where you first learn that, while tiny, the barbarian is still brutal and fun to control!

Starting a new game has you begin tied to a tree with the buzzards ready to devour you. As you attempt to wiggle free, one of them bites you, so you grab it and annihilate it, turning it magically into a chicken-style dinner that gives you the strength to escape. How metal is that?! What you're playing is essentially Conan the Barbarian in pixel art. What I love about a good pixel art game is that, despite the "simpler" art, it feels so alive. When he stands still, he lumbers with his huge muscles, he flexes mid-jump and his attack feels powerful when you press the attack button. Enemies can be sent flying when hit and even juggled in air or sent into other enemies after they're killed. Once dead, they lie there instead of magically exploding or disappearing, letting you see your trail of destruction. The backgrounds, easy to miss while being your awesome barbarian self, are gorgeous for pixel art and scroll magnificently.

Tiny Barbarian DX reminds me of a great NES game - aside from the aforementioned pixel art, the game only requires movement, a jump key and an attack key. There are no tutorials, no crazy instructions, and the game holds hidden secrets - like random blocks you can destroy for delicious chicken legs or treasure - that it doesn't even hint at until about an hour in. Also like many NES games, you're going to die a lot, and you'll end up really hating some of your enemies. It does this without feeling cheap, mind you; every time I died in this game felt like I deserved it. I often became overly confident and aggressive - in true barbarian form - which led to my rightful demise.

This boss fight was VERY satisfying despite dying numerous times, by the way.
The game has no shortage of enemies - even bosses - that mix things up and keep things fresh. And what barbarian doesn't have a fearful beast to ride from time to time? The levels themselves utilize the enemies, chains and platforms well, and as the game goes on some levels give you that "ARGH, I'M GONNA SMASH MY CONTROLLER" feeling, but once you clear it, you feel like the best gamer in history.

I suppose that I have to come up with something not to like, right? It was rather annoying how the game required you to press up to grab onto vines and such, and it didn't always work perfectly... There were a few times where I went to grab a vine or do a jump but the up arrow messed up the jump itself or I didn't hold on in time. The controls are otherwise tight, but it's still a bit frustrating.

Curse you, crazy long climb of death! This was the furthest into the game I saw.
I'll also admit that, when it was all said and done, I just couldn't make it to the end. I don't know exactly how long the game is (I got a good, solid hour in myself) or what other crazy things happen, but I will say that I never once felt bored and very rarely felt cheated by death (just when I kept messing up grabbing the edges of ledges or chains). This fact is also true of 90% of the NES games I've tried, so it's certainly not specific to Tiny Barbarian DX. It's not easy to be a brutal warrior after all!

[Edit: The developer is being SUPER AWESOME and creating additional episodes (each a self-contained adventure) for the game; episode two is currently in the works and has been since September. And best of all - not only are they TOTALLY, COMPLETELY FREE to anyone who has purchased the game, they can even be played separately from the main adventure!]

I was granted a copy of this game for review.

Available for: PC
Price (at time of writing): $9.99
Developed by: StarQuail Games

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