Pretend God of War hasn%26rsquo;t happened. Pretend you%26rsquo;ve never heard of Devil May Cry %26ndash; this has the bonus side effect that you can squint at the box all over again, and think: %26ldquo;Don%26rsquo;t they mean Devil May Care?%26rdquo; for the first time, just like you did in 2001. Now go back further, to 1989, and pretend you%26rsquo;re enjoying Golden Axe for the first time.
Now come back, and try to make sense of Beast Rider. It%26rsquo;s not retro - the graphics don%26rsquo;t have enough style for that - they%26rsquo;re just dated. The washed-out green-grey opening levels last for far too long. There%26rsquo;s a misguided sense of loyalty to the original game, too. They try to force as much of the classic Golden Axe stuff %26ndash; gnome thieves, beasts, potions %26ndash; into the game, and never pay much attention to whether it%26rsquo;s fun or not. Plus, they%26rsquo;ve gotten rid of the multiplayer. Even Golden Axe can%26rsquo;t seriously ignore that it%26rsquo;s 2008, so you fight with a mixture of light and heavy attacks, and use magic when you%26rsquo;re in a sticky pickle.
The combo system isn%26rsquo;t developed enough to make you feel like you%26rsquo;re doing anything spectacular, so the only real innovation is the colored attacks of your opponents. Weak green attacks can be parried or evaded with a tap of either shoulder button. Orange overhead attacks have to be evaded with the left, blue swiping attacks parried with the right. If you see a red attack, there%26rsquo;s no cause for alarm, just jump out of the way. It%26rsquo;s simple and difficult in a way that%26rsquo;s initially entertaining, but it%26rsquo;s shallow; and every monster uses the same style. You%26rsquo;ve got no reason to look at anything except the next flash of color and can easily slip into an unfocused meditative nowhere. You barely notice that you%26rsquo;re chopping people in half.
You ride beasts, too, giving you access to a couple of special moves, and if you find an armored beast, you%26rsquo;ve got about a minute of immunity in which you can run around, pouncing, and never quite feeling in control. These beasts are treated like a temporary bonus %26ndash; they die quickly %26ndash; so they could have tried to make them feel more fun. Which is a fair summary of the entire game.
Oct 22, 2008