I absolutely adore side scrolling beat em ups, I always have and back in the day growing up I would lose a lot of lunch money playing on arcade games like Golden Axe, TMNT, Dragon Ninja and Double Dragon. There is just something about having a limited number of lives in game and 50p’s in your pocket and fighting your way to win the day and keep on playing. Sadly those kind of games are few and far between now, especially on consoles however the second I saw this little gem of a game not only did my old warrior instinct return, but the bloodthirsty need to slay everything on screen and find that humble roast chicken to get my health back. The game that brought back all this awesomeness, Wulverblade.
It is 120AD and the Romans have managed to conquer most of Southern Britain and have now turned their attention to the North and Scotland with the 9th Legion and its 5000 highly trained Roman soldiers making their way to complete the victory. However Scotland is not known for simply lying down and her people are ready, willing and able to stand and face any threat that comes their way and in 120AD, the Scots were brutal and deadly like no other tribe in Britain. Caradoc, Guardian of the Northern Tribes has rallied them together to face the Romans and he is out for nothing but total destruction of the 9th Legion and will do whatever it takes to protect his lands and his people.
Wulverblade is a visceral side scrolling beat em up that is truly the modern day tribute to all the iconic side scrollers of long ago. It is unforgiving in its brutality and completely revels in delivering an old school experience whilst at the same time bringing a modern take on this genre that for someone like me who grew up with this genre of video game, just makes brings it all back so effortlessly. From the opening cutscene and musical score that would give big screen films like 300 a run for their money, Wulverblade is impactful right from the moment you hit that start button.
Set across eight stages, Wulverblade lets you pick one of three characters to take into the battle. It also has local co-op meaning a friend can join you but sadly no online Co-Op. I took the main hero of the story Caradoc into battle, with his sword to block and sword to cut down the Romans and tribesman who chose to side with the Romans. It follows the basic rules of a side scroller beat em up with the requirement to kill all enemies before being able to move to the next screen and to battle your way to the boss fight of that stage. Enemies will come at you from either the left or right of the screen and come in different fighting types which increase in difficulty as you progress through the game.
The first thing that hits you in the visual style and I love how everything is just big on screen and in your face as you hit enemy after enemy. Much like how the additional bass in the soundtrack in DOOM just raises your Adrenalin in the action, Wulverblade has a fantastic musical score that pushes you along into battle and the art style is glorious. As the action kicks in you will be cutting off limbs and heads of enemies and you slice your way through the enemies with the wonderful bonus of being able to pick up fallen weapons and indeed limbs and heads to then throw at new enemies. The numbers game is the main technique of the enemy and playing solo especially, the number of enemies on screen can often have you surrounded but this is where the excellent combat system comes into play and moving focus to different enemies is quick and as Caradoc has a shield, defending yourself and even parrying attacks becomes a natural element to the fighting. Jump attacks, quick combos and using the shield charge are all fluid and great for the crowd control needed for large numbers of enemies and to break down the defence of those enemies carrying shields or using ranged attacks like bows. Each stage is so beautifully drawn that along with some of the most Scottish “Scottish” dialogue and voice cast I have seen in a game, as the player you really start to get a feel that you are defending Scotland and her people from the evil Romans.
Completing each stage then opens up the next one but Wulverblade has an extra little surprise which I completely adored that as you play through each stage some will unlock a short video showing how the developers researched the lore and history of Scotland to find the right locations to recreate as stages in the game. By looking at the ancient stone circles of Scotland, the videos will tell the tale of their history and their inspiration for the game. During the stages themselves, smashing the scenery can also find character diary entries and developer notes that can be read outside the stages telling more of the true history of this time and of the lore of the ancient tribes and how these were brought together to create the story for Wulverblade. It is in these extra touches that elevate my experience with this game in a way I really appreciated, much like Never Alone who also had videos to explain the history and inspiration behind that game, it is a look behind the curtain and something I wish more games would take the time to do.
I also came to appreciate the modes this game has with the classic Campaign mode and the extra cool ‘Arcade mode’ which gives a huge nod to the arcade side scrollers of old by only allowing three continues to complete the game, like you have your very last 50p in the machine and that is all you get. Such things along with the developer notes and videos just add so much to what is already a solid game experience, show the heart and passion that went into this game and that can only be applauded and admired. Wulverblade is clearly a project of love and everything about it from the animation, voice acting, story and gameplay just brings it all together into a must have package. It is so pick up and play to begin with but it entices the player to practice to continue to improve and get better as the challenge increases through to the later stages in the game with a really unexpected but awesome surprise at the end that adds even more fun and awe to the game.
Nostalgia has become a big element in the games I am quickly coming to love in 2018 and Wulverblade is no exception. The fact this game has so much in and around its core game campaign is nothing short of brilliance. I can return to this game time and time again and it has already earned a place in my gaming heart right next to games like Golden Axe which from me is high praise.
There is a lot to celebrate about this game and if you are a fan of side scrolling fighters then this more than deserves a place in your collection.