It seems I might have made a bit of a mistake last time.
And no, I’m not referring to any one of the hundreds of times I was unceremoniously murdered by ferocious lizard men. I mean that I called attention to myself. It seems that by reviewing Volgarr, and praising that feeling I got when I was violently reminded of my own inadequacy, I brought on the attention of other bloodthirsty marauders. I might have even remarked at how rare these types of games are, and how much I appreciate them. I was a damn fool.
You see, in doing so I seem to have made myself a bit of a target to another shirtless pile of beef and murder known only as “Tiny Barbarian”. He is, I can only assume, a bitter rival of Volgarr the Viking and you might think they’d have a lot in common. Indeed, as two muscular men with fantastic beards and a propensity for shirtlessness, you might say they’d probably get along pretty well. They might even hang out if it wasn’t for the fact that each of them, when faced with somebody they don’t know, will react by immediately letting loose a battle cry and swinging a gigantic sword. Perhaps, then, they’re separated by their similarities.
But who’s the most mighty of these mighty warriors? And who’s the most worthy of that Valhallan top spot I talked about?
And more importantly, which of these bastards most deserves to pillage your treasure room, and show you, once and for all, what is best in life?
There’s only one way to find out.
When I say that tiny barbarian is out to make you suffer from the word go, I might actually be doing it a disservice. It’s actually out to get you before you get that far. It’s first attempt on your digital life is before even the level select screen. There’s a quick screen that introduces you to the controls, and from there the rolling vista’s and your character is introduced, standing proudly on a grisly mountaintop while all around monsters crawl towards him.
Welcome to horde mode, before you’ve even seen a title splash.
It makes a pretty good introduction to the game and how it plays. You’re a tiny little lump of muscular pink, and you’ve got one hell of a big swing. Swinging thrice while holding a direction causes a kind of stab/dash attack, and bad guys crawl infinitely up the mound to try and fight you off. It’s a pretty neat little trick to introduce you to the combat system, and drill the basics in from the ground up. You can knock enemies into each-other, it tells you. You can juggle corpses around like some kind of fiercely psychotic clown. You can take six hit’s, as denoted by big red squares. You are, like the famous “father ted” skit, either very small, or far away. There’s a fairly significant brutality to the enemies.
You’re going to die little and often.
I don’t want to spoil how the mission begins, but within the first thirty seconds something happens that is very, incredibly, Conan the Barbarian. If you hadn’t figured it out with the brutal bloodthirstiness of the title screen, this is a game more than happy to hark back to the traditional biceps vs wizards of the old days. There’s a wizard, a minotaur-thing and, at one point, an explosively wet entrance to a harem of presumably nude young girls. Though they could be shapely anythings, really. It’s graphically classical like that. If you’re the kind of person who enjoyed the look of the classics, you’ll find plenty here to enjoy.
Considering what I’ve said about taking multiple hits and so on you might assume this game is a little easier, and you might be right. I certainly found it easier to reach the first checkpoint here than I did with Volgarr, though that might be down to his tiny stature and the fact that when you die, you’ll start at the beginning of the area with full health. This, of course, makes it much easier to get far into the game without wasting hours of your life learning unit patterns and layouts. It’s still difficult, but it doesn’t require the same lever of mastery. I say this with a great massive “yet” hanging over it like a sleeping dragon. Even with the hours I’ve poured into it a new level, which introduces both pots with a physically impossible supply of snakes and wizards, has halted my progress to a dead stop. It’s not the first time that’s happened though. A cave of infinite weaving bat’s saw more than it’s share of tiny little barbarian corpses, and after that there was a elevator sequence that mulched me like some kind of midget slaughter machine. But I pushed ahead eventually. I’m sure I will again.
Aside from my own ineptitude, the reason I can’t claim to be able to review the whole game is simple; It doesn’t exist yet. I’ve been playing the first world, which is a whole contained story within itself. From beginning to (presumable) end. There are set to be three more whole worlds introduced as they are finished, all included in the price of the ten dollar game. Which is weird, because I thought it was pretty good value already. There is a hell of a lot on offer here and honestly, this game is getting a recommendation as is.
It’s brilliant, and I recommend it, but I’m not just here to review. I’m here to compare. So, Conan, Which is best?
Balls if I know. Volgarr is tougher but (ironically) shorter, and Tiny’s more about explosion and old school boss joy than the brutal kick to the teeth. Thinking about it, I don’t think they’re really competing with each other. They’re coming from totally different angles, and it’s both a blessing and a curse that the one thing they agree on is kicking my ass.
TINY BARBARIAN DX
Developer: Star Quail Games
Released: November 26, 2012
Score: 7/9 Hammers