What exactly can a tiny barbarian do? Hack, slash, and elbow drop a plethora of enemies while flexing his biceps, that’s what.
Tiny Barbarian DX is one of the many Switch games that publisher Nicalis brought to the console. Developed by StarQuail Games, it was initially released back in December of 2013 on Steam. Nearly four years later, it has an 87 percent positive rating from Steam users. Meanwhile, the Switch version’s Metacritic score is 77. There’s a reason for that.
Do you lift?
While some games believe in slowly easing players through the game, Tiny Barbarian DX does not. The game starts with your player – a muscular guy armed with a sword – on top of what looks like a mountain. The environment is dark and silent, and soon enough an endless number of enemies start attacking. Only after your death does the title drop, accompanied by a taste of the game’s catchy tunes.
If you ended up doing nothing during this opening sequence and missed out, don’t worry. The only things you missed are the simple controls and the typical amount of hits needed to finish off an enemy. Even smaller details such as deflecting projectiles with your swing can be learned in-game. True to its inspiration, Tiny Barbarian DX keeps things simple enough: one button for jumping and another for attacking.
However, don’t think for a moment that blindly jumping and slashing are all there is to learn. As mentioned earlier, swinging the sword can deflect projectiles back. An upward swing is available to deal with flying enemies. You can also elbow-drop your enemies to death to prove that your biceps mean business. Lunging with your sword is also an option, as well as making a big circular slash around you. All of these moves are available either with directional inputs or with rapid button presses.
Your little barbarian’s jumping abilities are also pretty decent. Thanks to the game’s careful placement of platforms, there’s no gap too wide or platform too high. In the case that the destination is slightly higher than usual, Mr. Barbarian grabs the edge and hangs there until you tell him to go. Depending on the layout, you also have the option to jump down to the platform below you. And just in case you drop down to a pit of spikes, worry not: spikes only deal one damage unless you’re stuck there.
Feel the burn
Armed with the knowledge of how to traverse the world and fight, Tiny Barbarian DX will now require you to trust and utilize your skills. You have six hits, with options to dine on Castlevania-style wall chicken for health. As long as you have enough points, you can keep trying the room over and over until you succeed. Earn points after killing enemies and looting coins, while save points are usually at the beginning of each room.
This would have been the perfect set-up if it wasn’t for the small but annoying flaws in its design. Mr. Barbarian’s edge-grab, or grab in general, is too sticky to facilitate quick platform switching during a chaotic boss fight. Some enemies and their skills can also come at you from off-screen, giving you little to no chance to react. And that sword swing? It’s surprisingly over-animated – you can get hit by a projectile if you’re at the tail end of the animation and your command did not register yet.
Tiny Barbarian DX is a nod to the challenging games of the 8 and 16-bit era. Armed with colorful retro-styled graphics and head-bopping tunes, this game will challenge you and frustrate you just as much as its spiritual predecessors. This game might not have anything groundbreaking, but at least it is bite-sized enough to keep you coming back.
Note: Nicalis provided a copy for review purposes.