Platforms: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PC
[Review code provided by East2West Games]
Do you remember Castle Crashers? Developed by The Behemoth and released in 2008, it was a wildy successful beat-em-up that was jam-packed with that particular Newgrounds flavour. It’s since seen a number of re-releases and a remaster and continues to be well loved to this day.
Puppet Depot, the developers of Wonder Blade, remember Castle Crashers. Indeed, Wonder Blade is very much inspired by the classic beat-em-up. It’s an unmistakable resemblance. That’s not to say it’s a rip-off, exactly, but simply that playing Wonder Blade evokes a lot of very familiar feelings.
The story begins with our hero fighting for the hand of the Princess, when – gasp! – an evil knight kidnaps the fair maiden and whisks her away. Naturally, you must give chase, rescue the girl and smite all sorts of baddies along the way. The stage and enemy variety is quite nice, with everything from orcs to zombies standing between you and the finish line.
Wonder Blade’s gameplay is simple and enjoyable. You advance from left to right and beat up enemies by mixing together your standard attacks, arial attacks, magic and executions. Standard mobs are plentiful, and quite easily dealt with. Stringing together a beefy combo is satisfying, and not too hard to pull off.
Bosses are a bit more tricky and might require a few tries, though the game is generous with checkpoints. I felt like some of the bosses attacks were too hard to avoid, though. Discerning the proper timing for dodges isn’t easy when the hitboxes feel mysterious. It’s easy to get un-stuck, though – just replay an earlier stage for more gold and EXP and come back stronger.
Wonder Blade features some light RPG elements. You can buy potions and weapons, level up skills and switch costumes for a variety of special buffs. Gimmick bosses and minigames break up the standard stages, stopping things from feeling too stale. Again, these are familiar features, but there’s worse notes to copy from.
The game is not without some gripes, though. I played the PC version, which has somewhat limited controller support. The game looks to be a mobile port, and lacks a lot of options that we’d consider standard – most notably, key-binding. The game is also really loud, and has no volume controls – only an on/off toggle for music and SFX.
Wonder Blade lacks any form of co-op play, which is a shame – beat-em-ups are often best enjoyed with friends. For some, this will be a deal breaker. When considering that Castle Crashers leaned heavily on it’s four player co-op, this feels like a glaring omission.
Still, I enjoyed my time with Wonder Blade. It’s not the most original game, nor the most robust, but for about £5 it’s hard to really complain. Putting aside some oversights in the porting process, it’s a very competent and enjoyable product. There are certainly worse ways to spend your time and your money.
Puppet Depot’s Wonder Blade wears it’s inspirations on it’s sleeve, but is competent enough to merit a look, especially at it’s low asking price. If you don’t fancy playing through Castle Crashers for the 30th time since 2008, or you just really like beat-em-ups, then it’s worth checking out.