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Dogs of the Death Adder
on 25 July 2009
Golden Axe: Beast Rider is a halfhearted franchise revival. Its still a hack and slasher, but a basic and ugly one.
Golden Axes heroine is Tyris. The `storyline' involves the kidnapping of `the last of the great Titans' by the Bogeymen. Which leads Tyris on a quest to rebuild the legendary Golden Axe.
Memories of the originals are hazy, but there some references. Gilius Thunderhead, the axe-wielding dwarf makes a few early appearances, but disappears by the end of each cut scene. This also happens with the entire Sisterhood during the opening ceremony. The gnomes also feature, complete with fast music. Attacking them causes items, health and cash to drop, acting like a bonus section.
Dragon statues act as continues, found during certain levels. Once these are used, death means a restart to the beginning. It's a nice, old school touch, but a checkpoint system would have worked better.
The fundamental change is the inclusion of beasts (hence the title) that can be used in battle. There is an interesting selection. Some have cloaking powers, others can breathe fire. It provides some welcome variation. However, later stages have large numbers of enemies on beasts. As soon as Tyris is knocked off, (which happens far too easily), an enemy will mount your beast too. It's a bit like carjacking in GTA. Creature respawn pads are usually located at the beginning of each level, which forces backtracking. Moreover, if your creature hasn't been killed, nothing will happen. Harsh and frustrating.
The combat system seems deep initially. Coloured attacks correspond to the shoulder buttons. So orange attacks are countered with L1, blue attacks with R1. Yet even during the tutorial stage, the controls feel unresponsive, with a noticeable delay between button prompt and animation. It leads to a button-bashing affair, and ruins the counter attack system.
Levels, or `Challenges', consist of basic puzzles, mixed with repetitive combat. The next section opens once all enemies are killed, or a puzzle is completed. Sometimes it's both!
Spells are included, but drain magic quickly. Recharging pads are scattered, but their general use is limited to emergencies, or when mission specific. It's extremely frustrating to reach a puzzle, need magic to pass, and have to scour the level, looking for an unopened crate or pad.
On the positive side, there's gore everywhere, and even a statistic for limb dismemberments. Loading screen artwork is a nice touch. And the music is above average. However, there is no trophy support, its also prone to split second freezes and graphical glitches. The camera can be very problematic. Levels are painfully linear. Enemies appear from thin air, which is a cheap move. Graphics are also under whelming. In a similar style to Viking: Battle For Asgard, the bright, cartoon-like aesthetic fails to hide an unattractive game.
Golden Axe has a few extras. Trials of Tyris is a selection of battle arenas that feature in the main quest. Challenge mode allows completed levels to be replayed, along with unlocked outfits and blades. But they all suffer the same problems as story mode, and remain almost no fun to play.