Golden Axe: Beast Rider (360)
- October 14, 2008 00:00 AM PT
Any publisher considering revisiting a classic gaming franchise in hopes of cashing in on the current wave of retro-nostalgia should take the new Golden Axe game as a lesson in what not to do. Unlike recent resurrections like Pac-Man Championship Edition and Mega Man 9, Beast Rider is a terrible game that feels like a slap in the face to fans of the original franchise.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Fans hoping for a worthwhile update to one of gaming's most revered hack-and-slash franchises will be sorely disappointed by this poorly designed and utterly mediocre title.
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Belly of the Beast
At this point, it'd be easier to tell you what the game does right rather than what it does wrong. The graphics are decent enough, although the visual style and character design feels like it was ripped straight out of the Heavenly Sword playbook, and the game is unabashedly gory, with gratuitous decapitations and flayed flesh galore.
But that's about it. The rest of the game is littered with problems such as a frustrating control scheme. Your offense will degenerate into an exercise in button mashing while defense is handled by a complicated parry-and-dodge system where enemies unleash color-coded attacks. If an enemy's weapon glows orange, for example, you have to tap L1 to dodge; if it's blue, you tap R1. It sounds simple but it requires fairly precise timing and you're often surrounded by multiple enemies, so it's hard to see what color attack is coming when.
It's also doesn't help that the main character, Tyris, feels so stiff and robotic, moving without any sense of grace or flow in or out of battle. The same goes for the game's titular beasts: They're so cumbersome and poorly designed that it's almost not worth bothering with them. Really, the only reason to ride one is to solve the lame environmental puzzles in order to progress, as they're just about useless in battle.
Oh, and get this: each beast has a special ability that you can activate, like flame breath and stealth mode but doing so consumes their health bar which completely ruins the fun of riding around on a powerful beast. It's bad enough that enemies are hacking away at your mount without having to worry about special attacks draining their health!
Beast of Burden
Add in tired and repetitive level designs, a lackluster story and the general absence of fun and you have a title that isn't worth playing. There are nice little touches that fans of the original will appreciate but it's just not enough to save this directionless game. Why they didn't just combine the beat-em-up gameplay of the original with some updated graphics and slap the whole thing onto the PSN or Xbox Live is beyond me but this is definitely one retro-tastic title you should avoid.
PROS: The graphics are decent and the game doesn't shy away from the gore.
CONS: The controls, level design, the story, the combat, the beasts, etc.