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Hack and Slash - miss or smash?
on 17 October 2008
I'm going to try and be as honest as possible here. As someone who loves and owns the entire series of Golden Axe games, on all their various console incarnations, I will say this: I am a little disappointed that the series has not been given the respect it deserves, a common theme for many modern incarnations - anyone played the god awful fatal fury remake, streetwise, for the ps2? Sheesh. I mean G.A.B.R. was always going to be a hack and slash style scrolling beater whether people like it or not - that's what the series is about(apart from the far too Zelda-esque styling's of golden axe warrior), but it could have had a bit more to it. As Ninja Gaiden and alike have already proven - these type of games can be simple but engrossing and extremely well made. The level design on offer here is very basic and not at all interactive, apart from the odd wall spike to pin your enemies to. Also the rather mediocre levels are a bit too long winded and not much to look at - I mean overall they're pretty enough but just plain and well....plain.
Now the major point of the game the 'beast rider' element has not been pulled of as it should have been - the beasts are as weak as they where in the original golden axe - the odd slap and you're off them, and in an instant they're either being rode by someone else, who, incidentally, takes far more than a few slaps to dismount I can tell you, or they've been chopped to bits by the time you've got to your feet.
Now enough bashing and on with the decent elements of the title. Firstly I don't agree with the majority of reviews that state the beasts are rubbish to control - but there is a knack to it which means you literally have to run from one end of a segment just smacking enemies as you go past then spinning round to do it again. If you don't do this you'll be dismounted in the blink of an eye and the above problems ensue, not the most inovative use of cool looking mega beasties - shame. Next up I've found the combat satisfyingly visceral but not varied enough - a few lengthier combos wouldn't have gone a miss - but all in all it's hacky, hacky, blood spurting fun - mindless but satisfying, although smashing someone in half could have felt a little meatier. Next up: The magic is just there - it doesn't have that `build it up then let it rip' element that was present in the original games (you can unleash a big firey dragon when your potions are full but it's nowhere near as cool or worthwhile as it sounds), plus there are so many ways to get potions that the little gnome kicking sections (yes they're back) are totally redundant.
There is the main story which I haven't finished yet, but I've spent about 6 hours on it so I'll update this when I'm finally done. Then there's an arena style, wave after wave, affair - 'nouhg said. Then you can play through the story levels you've completed and try to get better ratings (if you've not already got an A) which in turn give you better weapons and outfits to use in arena mode. However, as a side note, you have to rack up a stupid amount of points to get these new weapons which leaves you feeling a little bit unrewarded for the slog.
So all in all it's a bit of an average affair - it does not deserve some of the more sensationally low review scores it has been given, there are far worse games out there that have been given far more than they deserve, and I feel that being able to sort your disappointment that the series has not been given the treatment it deserves from how the actual game plays is essential to your enjoyment.
Final Verdict: An average hack and slash that doesn't quite have the cheap kicks that gave Conan it's gruesomely enjoyable edge. Some okay elements that are not as well though out as they could have been, but are chunky enough to keep you hacking away to see all that's on offer. Also Tyris looks hot but you can't play as Battler and Gillius (they are in it though) which is more than a bit of kick in the pants.
Cheers for reading.