The idea of fighting for your life when stuck in a deep, dark chasm is terrifying. With beasts aplenty to keep you busy and the constant fear of losing your life, this isn’t an experience for the faint of heart. Batbarian: Testament of the Primordials use this as its main concept, but luckily the protagonist is accompanied by his illuminated bat friend.
Developed by Unspeakable Pixels and published by DANGEN Entertainment, this is a 2D adventure platformer. Using a pixelated style and taking influence from Metroidvania games, this is one adventure that’ll keep you busy as you explore the labyrinthine world. With a heavy dose of humour and an array of enemies and bosses to defeat, this will make you laugh and challenge you from beginning to end.
Batbarian uses its old-school influences to create an addictive yet simple game.
You control a barbarian who has unfortunately been thrown into an abyss filled with monsters and traps. This large maze-like chasm comprises many areas that offer unique challenges and enemies to overcome. If he was thrown into this alone, it would have been terrible. But luckily his trusty bat friend Pip joins him on his journey. Pip is no ordinary bat, though, as he glows in the dark. This simple idea forms a key component of Batbarian’s core mechanics. Pip is the key to solving many puzzles.
The aim of the game is straightforward; move through the maze of rooms, solve the problems, defeat the monsters, and find the exit. Yet, you’ll quickly realise that things aren’t as easy as they seem. Like most Metroidvania games you’ll quickly become disorientated because of the sheer volume of rooms you have to explore. This is then compounded because special powers are needed to reach certain areas. There is plenty of back and forth which may sound tiresome, but I never got bored with it. Your new skills added depth and made revisiting old areas fresh and enjoyable.
Make new friends, find the secrets, and spend big at the mushroom shop.
Now, you may think it unfair that there is a constant flow of new bosses, but only our hero and his bat. Worry not! As you venture deeper into the abyss, you’ll encounter heroes that wish to join your party. They add new skills, offer tips, open locked areas, and add extra layers of humour to an already hilarious plot. However, I wouldn’t advise getting too attached as they die or abandon you. Typical bunch of fickle A-holes, eh?
Alongside your new friends, you must look for new paths that expand the map, gather hidden collectables, or find secret areas. You’ll gain potions to increase attack, defence, or awareness. Chests hide gems and treasure to fill your coffers. You’ll also find sections of the map to help you navigate the labyrinth. The hidden zones aren’t easy to find and you’ll need to smash blocks, walk through fake walls, and rely on luck to find them all.
Collecting the coins allows you to buy new equipment and ammo at the mushroom shop. Coins are dropped when enemies are killed, alongside XP. The shops are dotted around the map and every visit offers a unique upgrade. Whereas levelling up allows you to improve your hero with a fruit machine style mini-game. Improve three stats and give yourself a chance in the later stages.
Massive bosses, sneaky monsters, and light-based puzzles.
A Metroidvania game has to have a layer of difficulty to its gameplay. Whether it’s losing yourself in its vast world or challenging foes, it’s supposed to be tough. Batbarian does just that with its array of tough enemies and massive bosses. Your foes require a tactical approach and you may need Pip to knock them on their back or use rocks to drop them from the sky. Whatever is required, you’ll have to work it out quickly, otherwise, they’ll eat you alive.
The bosses like their minions vary in shape and size. However, they are all huge and require time to work out their weaknesses. Death is a certainty, so don’t allow it to frustrate you. Dust yourself off, learn from your mistakes, and dive straight back in.
What I truly adored were the deceptively simple puzzles. Pip’s light can charge crystals that open doors, remove platforms, or retract spike traps. It was basic but ingenious and added a logical layer that makes it stand out from its peers.
Batbarian is an old-school game with a retro look!
Batbarian doesn’t shy away from its old-school roots and I loved it for it. The simple side-scrolling 2D movement was complemented by the basic pixel art. The sprites have a glorious low detail look that screams early console gaming. The use of darker tones works well with the theme, but it should have used some contrasting tones for the platforms as they were difficult to spot. Other than that, I enjoyed its look and the game ran smoothly with no issues to report.
The developers have produced a wonderfully atmospheric title through the use of sound. The fantastic dramatic soundtrack adds a sombre and desperate feel to the game. The selection of songs reflects the situation and when danger was present, the audio changed accordingly. Every boss battle looked great, but the winner had to be the music! The aggressive songs set the scene, getting the adrenaline pumping while demanding you keep playing. There is no spoken dialogue, just text and this was the correct decision. Voice over work wouldn’t have suited the retro style and it would have been overkill.
Easy controls and a clean UI, what more could you ask for?
When a game is all about precision, the controls can be complicated. Fortunately, Batbarian is remarkably easy to play. With its clean UI and basic tutorial for new mechanics, you quickly master the control layout. It’s responsive and well thought out and this makes it a pleasure to play.
With hundreds of rooms to explore, many secrets to discover, friends to find, and bosses to overcome, you’ll be playing for hours. The dark cavern is massive and exploring every inch requires a hero with patience, skill, and a cool head. One taste of the action will have you hooked and its tough achievement list makes it a challenge to complete.
Batbarian is a wonderful Metroidvania title.
Metroidvania titles attract a certain calibre of gamers. Most are hardcore enthusiasts who love an extreme challenge. Batbarian will push you and punish you, but it’s more accessible than its peers. Its comedy laced dialogue, fresh gameplay, and drip-feeding of mechanics make it moreish and a must-play title. I loved it and recommend you to buy it here! Falling into an abyss isn’t the end. Solve the puzzles, find the secrets, and get out alive.