Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Tiny Barbarian DX - For the Gamer in you

"I have zero interest in this game"

That is what one of friends said when he saw the gameplay videos for Tiny Barbarian DX. Which is totally cool because as a gamer I have come to terms with the idea that not every game is for everybody. Some people just don't like awesome things.

So who is Tiny Barbarian DX for?

Let  me take you back a bit. Growing up I never played Zelda and I wasn't crazy about Mario. I had "zero interest" in things like Finally Fantasy or Secret of Mana and Chrono Trigger and the likes of. I played a shit load of Double Dragon and Castlevania. I had a cousin who owned a Sega and I spent hours at his place playing Splatterhouse. That game was a treat for me and it was even more special because I couldn't play it at home. And I played  a lot of Golden Axe and Argus no Senshi (published as Rygar in the west). Now those two games in particular, Tiny Barbarian is for people who loved those two games.

No complex story, no leveling up, nothing but jump and attack with movement. Just raw gameplay, but it was the gameplay that made them shine. So many hours of "just one more try, damn it just one more" as you slice your blade through skull and guts leaving a bloody trail of destruction on your quest. If Zelda is the Lord of the Rings of Video games then Golden Axe was the Chronicles of Conan. And that is the idea of Tiny Barbarian DX.

In fact before the DX version Tiny Barbarian was a free downloadable game loosely based on Robert Howard's classic Conan story "The Frost Giants Daughter"

The new game is an even bigger love letter to Conan. Before you even press start you find yourself at the top of what appears to be a massive tower surrounded by dark clouds and fire. Waves of enemies climb the towers steep walls to get their claws on you as you frantically swing your sword to survive.  Such imagery is iconic of everyone's favorite Cimmerian.

Eventually you are over come...

Then the "Start" menu fades in. This happens every time you load up the game and every time you last a little bit longer. This is the glimpse of the trial by fire that awaits you through out Tiny Barbarian DX. There is no tutorial, no direction; just instinct.

You know this game because you have played it before. Back during the dawn of the NES and SEGA systems when game design made you figure things out by playing for yourself.

This same thought and theory is tested when you fight the games bosses. I read some where once that a true game boss tests you on everything that you have learned up to that point and Tiny Barbarian DX never misses a beat to test whither you've been paying attention or not.

"Was that move you pulled to avoid that trap a fluke? Well lets see if you can do it again just to make sure"

As mentioned the game does nothing to hide it's inspiration not just from old school games but from the adventures of Conan as well. The opening scene sees our Tiny hero tied to a massive tree with vultures ready to pick him dry. This of course is a massive homage to one of the most memorable "Conan moments" as seen in the classic tale "A which shall be born" in which a beaten Conan is  nailed to a tree and left for dead. The whole scene plays out pretty much as it does in the story.

Nods to the character can be found all over the game. And the style of the enemies and locations have a very distinct "pulp fantasy" feel to them. It might all be obvious pixels but the art style made up of these pixels is awesome, but like the games of old they leave enough space for your imagination to bring them to life even more.

The animations are a treat to watch, with our hero in particular being a charm to play. Every jump and swing feels responsive and tight with death being a result of miss timing and not bad luck. The music is also a treat as your time on screen is scored as a grand adventure tightly packed into 8bit musical glory. You feel like a warrior as you smash your way through the game.

The gameplay itself is a mix of beat em up and platforming with minor environmental puzzles thrown in for good measure and you will find yourself dying a few times before "getting the hang" of a particular enemy pr area.

Michael Stearns who is the genius behind Tiny Barbarian DX plans to release episodic installments of the game with the first one already available. You do not have to pay for each episode though, they will become available upon release if you own the game. 

For fans of old school action and platforming (and Conan) Tiny Barbarian DX is a must have treat that will stir so much nostalgia in you that you'll feel like a kid again as you play through it.

Here's a video of me fighting the first boss :)

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