I'm not gonna lie – I've missed the beat-em-up genre. There used to be one point in the 90's when we were getting games like that on a nearly monthly basis. If we weren't playing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, we were playing Final Fight. If we weren't playing Alien vs. Predator, we were dominating The Simpsons Arcade.
But some developers are still trying their hand at them, and that's why it's refreshing to see Fully Illustrated's Wulverblade, a game that combines hack and slash action with warrior lore (not Vikings as originally thought -- though very Viking-like, providing a bit of a history lesson as you carve your way through it. It may not quite be up there with the legendary titles of old, but it's an excellent throwback for those that have been looking to dive into a good ol' couch session of "I can hack this guy up faster than you".
The game takes place in 120 AD, way back in the days of Britain. The Roman forces aren't holding back when it comes to taking over cities, and three medieval warriors have stepped up to take on the local tyrant, Emperor Hadrian. As you make your way through the game, the story follows your character of choice (either a large brute, a female warrior or a pretty well balanced Nord) as you push back against your adversaries, in remarkable detail.
But the story doesn't do much good if the hack and slash action doesn't hold up – and, thankfully, it does. You'll guide your soldiers into battle against a smorgasbord of Hadrian's forces, including archers and up-close strikers alike. You'll use different techniques to slash away at them, whether you're coming in with a jumping attack, leading into a combo that will launch them in the air (where you can score extra hits, nice) or stab them once and for all while they lay injured on the ground.
There are times that repetition can set in, like with any brawler, but there are some cool tactics to take advantage of. For instance, you can throw secondary items for extra hits, like knives and even the body parts of your fallen foes, as well as picking up extra weapons for a little extra brutality. You can also use a special attack that calls in a horde of wolves to dine on your enemies. While that isn't quite as dramatic as, say, unleashing a dragon in Golden Axe, it's still pretty awesome, to say the least.
The controls, while a bit on the basic side, are intuitive, and a lot of fun. And the modes that go along with the game are plentiful. Along with the story mode, there's also a more simple arcade mode, similar to the beat-em-up games of old, where you fight until you run out of lives. There's also an arena mode that becomes available, where you can fend off against hordes of enemies, and it's a good time with the right partner.prevnext
A Pretty Sharp Blade
The game doesn't offer online co-op, but you can always team up with a buddy for local play, and that seems to work best, as you can work together and communicate strategies, especially when it comes to bosses. The only problem is that they're a bit on the predictable side – dodge an attack, go in for a few slashes, repeat. And they don't do much to mix things up.
At least the game's presentation more than makes up for it. Wulverblade uses a brilliant hand-drawn style that really shows off its appeal, whether it's in the character movements or the beautiful backdrops that you'll fight your way through. Other little details are extraordinary too, right down to the little fires that you work around as you conquer your opponents. The audio is good too, with full voiceover work that's authentic to the themes, and moving music that will keep you motivated in battle.
Wulverblade would've been a little bit better with a few more stages and perhaps some online features to round out the package. But as it stands, it's still a joyous throwback to the days of old, when all you had to do to defeat an army was pick up a weapon and march forward. It's definitely recommended on the local co-op side of things, and highly recommended for anyone looking for some brutal Viking action. I mean, you get to throw heads. At enemies. And you can probably scream, "Heads up!" to yourself while you do it.
It doesn't get much better than that.
WWG's Score: 4/5
Disclaimer: A review code was provided by the publisher.prev