One of the greatest things about the Nintendo Switch is that it has attracted a great deal of attention from indie developers. Many times indie games retain that old-school retro feel from games of yesteryear that many gamers like myself grew up playing. I can’t tell you how many hours I put into games like Double Dragon II, Streets of Rage, and Final Fight. 2D side scrolling brawlers are nothing new, but Wulverblade takes the familiar gameplay mechanics and supercharges the experience with amazing cell-drawn animation set in a unique setting with over the top blood and gore. Combine two-player co-op and you have a recipe for a fun beat’em up session that’s entertaining for hours on end.
Unlike most games of this type, Wulverblade doesn’t take place in the streets and alleyways of a giant metropolis. Instead it’s set in the past, 120 A.D. to be precise. You play as a guardian of the northern tribes of Britannia. The Roman Empire has decided to take over the southern part of the island and is knocking on your door. Instead of letting them bring the fight to you, you and your team of warriors move south to vanquish the barbarians who have already slaughtered so many in their path. There will be blood.
At the outset you are able to choose from one of three heroes. Each has different attributes. Do you want to be super beefy and strong, but have slow movement or move like the wind and have weak attack power? The choice is up to you, and each player can even choose the same character so no need to fight over one or another.
Once the game begins you’ll be introduced to the striking art style of the game. This isn’t some 8-bit pixel love fest that so many Indies chase these days. No, some real hard work went into creating these gorgeous and detailed character models and backgrounds. The game looks like an interactive cartoon and there are lots of things going on in the foreground and background as well. In one area you enter a forest and can see some stealthy ninja-like enemies sneaking around behind the trees and then quickly climbing them, only to rain down death and destruction from above throughout the rest of that level. Small extras like this really add to the immersion and props to the developers for taking the time to come up with well thought out scenarios.
The second most noticeable thing right off the bat is that this game is violent. You’ll be slicing people’s arms off only to pick them up and throw them at incoming forces for ranged attack damage. You can even chop off heads and carry them around before pummeling someone with one. This isn’t God of War territory of violence, but it’s definitely there and might be off-putting for some gamers. I’m usually not a huge fan of excessive blood and gore in games, but it works well here since the art style isn’t trying to be ultra realistic.
As you move throughout the stages, which I must mention are rather lengthy, you will find destructible items that can yield collectible items or things like fruit that will replenish your health. If you come across a turkey being roasted on a fire you can steal it for a huge boost to your energy level. You can even pick up heavy weapons and use them to execute enemies with more force than the standard weapons allow.
Your character’s moves are fairly standard fare for games of this type. As usual, jumping is a key mechanic to take down enemies with a swift hit to the face. Once cool thing is you can execute a double jump and when you do so you’ll swing your weapon below you to attack. You can even perform a downward thrust immediately after to get two hits in for the price of one. You’re able to block incoming attacks with your shield and execute quick combos with simple presses of the buttons. To grapple an enemy you don’t press any action buttons at all, but just walk into them and you can do a nice head butt. If you get completely surrounded and need to make an exit, you can press the Y and B buttons at the same time to do a special attack that will hit everyone around you, but it comes at a cost to your health meter so you’ll want to use this very judiciously. The controls are simple to learn and easy to execute, which is important for a brawler.
The music in the game has a sort of Celtic orchestral sound to it. There is plenty of voice throughout, both narrated in cut scenes and as you fight enemies. The bosses often have numerous quips and you will come across some NPCs that will impart information. While nothing really stands out as amazing here, this game offers more up than other games in the genre and it’s appreciated.
Like many games, Wulverblade is enjoyable enough playing through the adventure solo. But the real magic happens when you have a buddy join in to take on the horde of enemies together. The game can be somewhat difficult, but it’s made much easier with someone by your side – providing they have some level of skill of course. If you both perish you can continue at the last checkpoint, which is usually about half way through a stage.
Fans of the genre should definitely pick this one up for the Switch. It tickles the nostalgia bone while offering up current visuals and audio to keep things fresh and exciting. The game’s not as short as some of the older games, offering up eight big stages to fight your way through. There’s not much new here in the gameplay department, but it’s another solid couch co-op game for the Switch!
- Graphics - 8.5/108.5/10
- Sound - 7.5/107.5/10
- Gameplay - 7.5/107.5/10
- Lasting Appeal - 8/108/10
Final Thoughts: GREAT
Wulverblade is a great current-gen brawler that should appeal to fans of classic games like Double Dragon. It’s a fun co-op experience that offers up an intriguing story with solid combat mechanics. It does feature copious amounts of blood and gore, but the cartoony graphics offset the gruesome factor.