Tiny Barbarian DX released today (October 10, 2017) for the Nintendo Switch. The game is a self described “thrill-a-minute Sword-’em-up (or “swup”)”. You play as a…well…tiny barbarian. Your main goal is to run jump, climb, slash and flex your way through levels and defeat the mini-bosses and bosses throughout the episodes. The game comes with four episodes, each providing an unrelated and unique adventure with coins and secrets to collect.
The game closely reminds me of Contra with a sword. It brings back great nostalgia of the 8 bit and 16 bit platformers and beat-’em-up games. All the vertical height changes, and dodging spikes just make the game a fun challenge. The Tiny Barbarian is definitely unforgiving for the feint of heart, but that is also a good thing. The game provides you with a life bar that makes the game not quite as punishing as classic platform games, but don’t let that fool you, that health bar can quickly disappear in the blink of the eye. There are constant traps and enemies that will keep you on your toes throughout a level.
The levels are well designed and are created to really challenge you to explore every corner for secrets and the multi-tiered platforms allow you to pick which route to take. However, there is no “easy” route in this game as they are all fraught with enemies to block your path. The backgrounds for the levels seem very simple but they fight the feel of the level so perfectly that they blend right in and make it so you notice the time put into the artwork.
The enemies follow your typical type of enemies found in any platform games. You have your: 1) mindless zombie type that just walks back and forth but has no real attack (think goomba or koopa trooper) 2) tracking enemy, that swings a weapon for a little range and just homes in on you no matter where you are 3) shooting enemy, that shoots ranged attacks at a consistent timing 4) swooping enemies that come in from both sides of the screen then randomly swoops down and tries to kill you. There is a unique enemy in the GOBLIN!!! The treasure goblin runs around and runs away, but every hit you get on the goblin provides treasures or food to help you get through the level.
The game is humorous and really fun to play. One of my favorite moments that still makes me giggle every so often (mainly because I like to take a break and do it) is when you can hurt enemies while standing still and flexing. If you time it right and flex as the enemy comes close you can hurt them and knock them back (Down + Action). There are other great moments that just makes you chuckle but I won’t ruin them by telling you. I would advise you take a few minutes to visit the Tiny Barbarian website (www.tinybarbarian.com) and read the manual, there are some great mini comics in there that will give you the sense of the shenanigans in the game.
The controls are very straight forward, you move around with your analog stick, and there is a jump and action button. The game is pretty tough and there were a few jumps (over spikes) or vine hang sequences that were pretty tough and definitely made me curse a bit. But the controls were done well and allows a player to traverse the landscape as long as they time their jumps and attacks right. I will admit there were a few times I felt I jumped super early and still got hit by a spear or an eagle that was a bit away. But once you figure out the timing, you will easily dodge anything the game can throw at you.
This game is a fun throwback to nostalgic 8-bit and 16-bit era action platformers. They are not for the faint of heart as the game is pretty challenging and does require a lot of patience to get through. The good thing is that there are no life limits or continues to worry about. If you die, you just start at the last check point and try again.
The game really provides what the developer said they were making, “…[a] classic… that you can often play through in under an hour – simple, challenging, and satisfying! Those games were short by necessity, but brevity IS the soul of wit, and it’s not a bad way to do things. The developer is right in that respect, consider how players are not beating Super Mario Brothers in under 5 minutes or how people can beat the original Contra in under 10 minutes. While the average person was able to beat these games in about 30 – 90 minutes, that brevity really made you come back to play it over and over again. That combination with the portability of the Nintendo Switch really make for a great throwback, and this is definitely something I see players pushing for speedruns in the near future.
If this sounds like your two liters of Mountain Dew it’s definitely worth a buy. I give Tiny Barbarian an 8.5/10.