Side-scrolling beat ’em ups have widely been considered a thing since 1984. A legacy of slowly waddling left to right, swinging swords, and throwing punches at whatever orc, demon or hoodlum dare cross your path. Wonder Blade, developed by East2west Games, comes barreling into the fray – armed and ready for some glorious noodle-slapping carnage.
You play as the aptly titled Wonder Blade. A warrior of great skill who is fighting for the entertainment of his rather stumpy King. Things go south quickly as the Kingdom is invaded and it is down to you to save the day. On your quest you will battle across all manner of battlefields and locations, ranging from besieged cities to forest trails, to dank, dreary caves. It’s a grand adventure spanning over a dozen locales, which helps keep the game looking fresh.
Swashbuckling and Spell-slinging
The gameplay is a simple affair. You have a basic attack combo, a magic spell, a dodge roll, and a mighty hop that can take your combo airborne. You could pick Wonder Blade up and learn how to play it in seconds, and thanks to the free-flowing nature of its combo system, attaining a basic sense of aptitude comes fairly quickly. Stringing together a series of ground attacks, before launching them into the air for a couple of slaps and finishing with a meteoric fireball looks, and feels, awesome.
Enemies come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, with bosses being interspersed throughout your journey at regular intervals. Most enemies can be taken down using the same tried and true tactics, however, bosses require a bit more finesse to tackle due to thunderous attacks and hefty health pools. You will also be graced with the occasional set-piece to change things up from time to time, which is a nice touch. Unfortunately, despite all of that, Wonder Blade does get very repetitive, very quickly.
This isn’t helped by the grindy nature of the game. To unlock everything the game has to offer will require a lot of time and effort. Naturally, this involves retreading old stomping grounds, which does nothing to alleviate the boredom that would have inevitably sunk in by this point. Of course, these aspects are common within the genre, however, they’re usually offset by cooperative gameplay to ease the burden and add a sense of comradery. Wonder Blade is completely bereft of such features, which severely hampered the game’s lifespan.
Harkening Back To The Days Of Flash
Graphically Wonder Blade looks to have been pulled straight from an early 2000’s Newgrounds flash game. It is clear the developer was heavily inspired by the wonderfully charming strokes of Dan Paladin of Castle Crashers fame, and for what it’s worth, they managed to pull it off. The game looks magnificent, with bright, bold colors filling the screen, buttery-smooth animations, a sprinkle of dismemberment and gore, and performance that holds up throughout – even in handheld mode. The game’s music fits in perfectly with the aesthetic, with fantastical, charming tunes throughout the experience.
It is a shame then that the developers couldn’t localize the game in a manner that did the games visuals justice. From start to finish the dialogue is poorly written, with broken English littering most text boxes. This lack of polish is also seen during tooltips, with the game instructing you to press buttons that simply do not exist on the Nintendo Switch which I played on.
The final grievance I have is the leveling up system, which exists entirely outside of any of the game’s main screens. You have to return to the title screen to power up your pocket-sized hero, and it is just a chore to do.
Wonder Blade is far from a bad game. In fact, it was a very enjoyable experience for about an hour. The overall lack of polish in the games finer designs undermine its smooth gameplay and gorgeous visuals, whilst the absence of multiplayer hamstrings its longevity. With a bit more spit and polish, and a couple of mates brandishing Joy-Cons, this could have been quite the hidden gem. Alas, it was not to be.
WAIT FOR SALE ON WONDER BLADE
Looking for more side-scrolling games? How about checking out Streets of Rage 4?
Many thanks go to East2West for an Nintendo Switch review code for this title.
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Forged in the rainy wilds of northern England, I carved a path of mediocrity through generations and genres. My play style is often described as: “optimistically awful”.