Wulverblade (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Drew Hurley 21.10.2017

Review for Wulverblade on Nintendo Switch

The scrolling arcade beat 'em ups of the '90s have a very special place in the hearts of countless gamers. Heading out to the arcades to beat up Bad Dudes, drive Cadillacs through the legs of Dinosaurs, rescue Maggie from Mr. Burns, and send some Turtles through time, was a key part of the childhoods of many. This has sadly now become an experience that has been lost to the sands of time almost everywhere bar Tokyo. Thankfully, games like Castle Crashers and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World have kept the spirit of those alive and well, and now a new title is using inspiration from the classic Golden Axe to tell a Celtic tale of scrolling slaughter. This is Wulverblade for Nintendo Switch.

Set in 120AD, Wulverblade tells the tale of the proud Northern clans of Scots and their struggle against the incursion of the Roman invaders. The Romans have already taken over most of the isles and done nothing in return for their people… well, other than sanitation, medicine, education, health, public baths, peace… Nothing! Now, the Romans have sent a 5,000 strong regiment of Romans and their allies on a path to stomp out any remaining insurrection to the north. Standing in their way is the Celtic warrior, Caradoc, who has united the Northern clans and is cutting a bloody swathe through the traitors and invaders, ensuring no Roman banner will fly while he holds breath.

Screenshot for Wulverblade on Nintendo Switch

Caradoc's campaign takes place over eight levels, taking him from his assaulted village and pushing further south, repelling his enemies all the way in a story that is a precursor to the building of a certain wall. No, not the one to stop the White Walkers. Caradoc is not alone in his crusade against the Romans as he is joined by two other playable characters. While Caradoc is the all-rounder character, the extreme alternatives are available in the form of the huge, hulking Brennus, who is slow but powerful, and Guinevere, a Boudicca-like warrior makes up for her lack of strength with numerous quick blows, launching speedy combos and bouncing enemies with juggles.

The gameplay and controls are absolutely faithful to the games Wulverblade is a love letter to. The controls have a simplicity that allows anyone to pick it up and get started but the punishing difficulty ensures that players will have to dedicate a decent amount of time to mastering the combat. Most attacks come from mashing the simple attack button but, in addition, there are some extra moves to learn to be able to take on the harder enemies and they are all quite familiar to the games this draws inspiration from.

Screenshot for Wulverblade on Nintendo Switch

Double tapping in a direction allows a dash, holding block while double tapping gives a dodge roll to evade attacks, and the quintessential "press jump and attack at the same time" special move is also in attendance. There are also abilities unique to this title - a once per level ability to summon wolves to tear apart enemies and a berserker mode that slows time to deal huge damage. The difficulty is considerable and perfectly timed dodges and evades are a necessity to get through the arcade mode.

Normal mode means fighting through all eight stages with only three lives and three continues to do so. Players would be wise to get used to the game on the much more forgiving arcade mode, which has checkpoints in each stage and unlimited continues. The best way to overcome the challenge is to bring a friend, whether it be in tabletop mode with a Joy-Con each or on the big screen with Pro Controllers. It is well worth replaying, too, to track down all the little historical information items, and even when that's complete, there's an extra arena mode, which gives wave after wave of enemies to tear to pieces.

Screenshot for Wulverblade on Nintendo Switch

Wulverblade has been a long time coming, being glimpsed as a Steam title way back in 2013, and then being announced as one of the many indie titles headed for Xbox. The game is clearly a labour of love; at the heart of the project is Michael Held, a fantastic artist who produced the designs for the world and characters. The cartoonish and hand drawn aesthetic is very appealing, the designs of the characters caricatures of the rough Scottish clansman melded with the dwarves of Warhammer. The best part of the design is in the unflinching violence. Heads and limbs are butchered off, and pools of blood mark the latest slaughtered mobs. Amputated parts can even be used as weapons to pitch at the latest enemies foolish enough to take on these maniacs.

Unlike the arcade beat 'em ups it's based on, Wulverblade has some real production values in its storytelling. The cut-scenes look great and there is some quality voice acting talent on board to give life to the characters. A particular high point is the performance of veteran British actor, and famously the voice of cult classic Krull, Trevor Martin, who very recently sadly passed away. Trevor plays both the voice of the Caradoc and of the narrator to the tale. His booming and tremulous voice adds a force and emotion to the performances.

Screenshot for Wulverblade on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Wulverblade is a welcomed addition to an already impressively broad catalogue of titles on Nintendo Switch. It's exactly these types of games that make the Switch so appealing, giving it a varied selection of superb smaller titles on top of the big blockbusters. Challenging, nostalgia-filled, brutal, and fun - it is an arcade classic in a brand new form for all the '80s and '90s gamers out there.

Developer

Darkwind Media

Publisher

Darkwind Media

Genre

Brawler

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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