You are Volgarr the Viking in a 2D sword swinging platformer set in a gorgeous old school fantasy world and this world is designed to murder and brutalize you. Almost every step is a challenge with death waiting around every corner. The game lives and thrives off of an old school feel and an incredible challenge that only the hardcore will be able to tackle. If you want a challenge, this game is for you. It looks and plays like a new school Rastan.
The graphics are amazing and there is an old school vibe to them. The world is detailed and looks fantastic. There aren’t that many secrets in this world and you’ll mostly be moving left to right with a few times that you’ll go up or down. Vulgarr will also climb chains and vines, jump over arrows far quicker than you, ride boats, slide down slopes and jump over spikes. The enemies are big, detailed and deadly. There is a lot of enemy variety and you’ll face off against waves of lizard men, giant snakes, spore spitting plants, giant spiders that wait for you to come to them before they spring into action, zombies that split in half if you attack their lower half causing the top half to tumble forward, shielded skeletons that will jump and downthrust at you and so much more. These enemies are probably the best designed enemies I’ve seen in years. Almost all of the enemies and areas are a homage to games like Rastan, Castlevania and Zelda 2.
The controls are simple and could have been done with an original Nintendo controller, but there is some depth, left and right to move, down to duck, attack with a sword, and jump (double jump that works as a screw attack). You can roll under things by holding down and the jump button. You can duck attack, jump and down thrust to break through floor tiles and enemies. You can also throw a spear by pressing up. The spear is not only a long range weapon, but a way to create platforms. You can also hold up to charge the spear and throw it across the screen to impale several enemies at once.
As Vulgarr you are slow and deliberate like the original Castlevania. You need to time attacks, and know where to stand in certain situations. You will need to kill or be killed rather than dodge enemies. Most enemies can be dispatched with a single swing of your viking sword, but Vulgarr is just as fragile as most of the enemies. One hit will result in death. You can break open treasure chests to find upgrades, first the wooden shield, then the helmet & iron shield, then the flame sword. All of these upgrades that allow you to take an extra hit that will lose a piece of armor. So if you have a flame sword and get hit, you will not only lose the flame sword but your helmet. When you have the shield, you can block attacks by not attacking. Then it becomes a case of knowing when not to attack. However, wooden shields break after taking so much damage. There are other secret power ups that you will find by breaking through walls and floors ala Castlevania.
The game is painfully difficult with long challenges between check points. At least the game offers unlimited lives. There are tricky jumps that rely on knowing where to throw your spears. Finding where to stand might result in playing the same level over and over countless times. Doing the exact same thing over and over with no real deviation to what you just did your previous life. Eventually, you will remember what to do, where to stand for specific enemies and you’ll get better like all murderous old school games.
This game has a lot going for it, but because this is a painfully challenging game, I can’t recommend it to players. The challenge outweighs the fun. If you want proof of how challenging it is, 66% of players have the first achievement.