27th Oct2017

‘Wulverblade’ Review (Nintendo Switch)

by Phil Wheat

Wulverblade-Screenshot-06

It would seem, given the amount of games hitting the market or announced as “in production”, that the side-scrolling beat ‘em-up is currently undergoing something of a resurgence. Back in the era of the SNES and Neo Geo you couldn’t move for such games, but with the advent of 3D graphics these types of games suddenly died a death. Yes, there were 3D examples of the genre, with games such as Deadly Strike, Final Fight Streetwise and pretty much ANY of the Musuo/Warriors titles, but traditional 2D side-scrollers seemingly had gone the way of the dodo. That was until the rise of indie developers and the penchant for more “retro” titles – which finally made their way from the likes of Steam to home consoles, in particular the PS4 and now Nintendo’s Switch; which has surprisingly embraced indie games with a passion – probably to fill the gap of left by a dearth of first and third party games on the console/handheld hybrid in its early life cycle.

But that’s not a bad thing. By embracing the indie scene the Nintendo Switch has found itself in a unique position – with recent news that eShop purchases are made up mostly of indie games, more indie developers are realising that there’s actually a wider audience available for their games and bringing them to the console in droves. Case in point: Wulverblade. Originally announced with a trailer debuted by Xbox of all people, Wulverblade has been in development for quite some time – with devs Fully Illustrated doing the rounds of video game expos and festivals as early as 2014′s PLAY Expo here in the UK, and as recently as this month’s PLAY Expo Manchester! But now the game has finally debuted, and on the Switch no less (with other consoles and PCs to follow) and, honestly, this style of game – both in terms of visuals and gameplay – suits Nintendo’s console to a tee.

Wulverblade is also another example of Nintendo moving away from their usual “family-friendly” titles to a more broader, and older, appeal, people – like me – who want to play games that feature gratuitous violence, buckets of blood and some ridiculous dark humour! Between titles like this, Doom and Senran Kagura, anyone would think Nintendo are expanding their gamerbase to actual grown-ups!

Very much in the vein of Golden Axe, Wulverblade features eight levels of slice and dice action, overflowing with sharp blades, blood-thirsty hordes and deadly arenas; as players battle their way through the invading Roman 9th Legion – unleashing deadly combos and devastating finishers and even packs of wolves (yes, you can summon wolves to tear the flesh from your Roman enemies – only once per stage of course)!

The plot goes something like this:

The Roman Empire is about to take control of the north of Britannia and quash the last remaining tribes – and you must stop them dead in their tracks! Play as either Caradoc, Brennus or Guinevere – members of a family originating in the northern tribe of the Caledonii. This family of warriors has been the guardian of the most northerly tribes of Britannia for generations. The Romans have invaded Britain and conquered all that lies before them… until now.

What that actually means for gamers is the ability to beat the hell out of waves of enemies, picking up weapons along the way: some of which can be an alternate one to your original – for example you can pick up a long axe, and that is automatically assigned as your heavy weapon attack, giving you two weapons with which to bash the Roman’s heads in with! Speaking of heads… On some occasions, once an enemy is dead their lifeless head will be left lying on the battlefield, just waiting for you to pick up and use to bludgeon more Romans with! Told you this wasn’t a kid-friendly game.

Though Wulverblade certainly looks kid-friendly. The character graphics are gorgeously rendered animations (which reminded me somewhat of Horrible Histories) and the backgrounds look just as good, with plenty of rich details even in the murkiest of landscapes… no matter though, you’ll soon be covering said landscapes in your enemies blood! And whilst on the surface the cartoon-like graphics would suggest more of a simpler game, Wulverblade is actually anything but. Yes, you can plunge head first into the action, cutting a swathe through wave after wave of Romans, multiple lives be damned, but beware – the end of level bosses are some of the hardest foes to beat in quite some – think Streets of Rage‘s final boss, but at the end of EVERY stage!

With a simple fight mechanic that belies the complexities of the strategy needed to actually beat the game, something that is lacking from a number of modern beat ‘em-ups, Wulverblade is an essential purchases for Switch owners – the rest of you? You’ll just have to wait…

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