If a game has some sweet looking pixel art, I’ll be on board with it immediately. I got into gaming in the 90s, so I was raised on 16-bit adventures that showed off stylish environments and creative character sprites – seeing modern titles utilise that graphical style now just brings a big smile to my face. Naturally then, Battle Axe appealed to me from the moment I set eyes upon it, with its jaw-dropping visuals certainly reminding me of the golden days of the Super Nintendo and SEGA Mega Drive.
Is it a case of style over substance, though? Well, there’s certainly fun to be had playing Battle Axe, but there are some areas where it falls short of the mark too.
Check out a gallery of the game’s screenshots down below:
With an evil sorceress by the name of Etheldred threatening the land, players take on the role of either Rooney the Warrior, Fae the Dark Elf, or Iolo the Druid as they head on an adventure to vanquish the villain in top-down brawling action. And believe me, there’s plenty of action taking place, with the player armed with a melee attack, a ranged attack, and a special ability that’ll help them smash their way through all of the enemies in their path.
Each character has different strengths that help differentiate them from one another, though they’re not so substantial that they completely change up how the game plays. That being said, the special abilities and unique weapons at their disposal certainly help them stand out… I mean… Iolo literally whips his enemies with his beard. How cool is that? He can also teleport, which is equally as cool. There’s no right or wrong choice as to who you play as though, with all three providing plenty of hurt when it comes to taking down foes.
Each level is packed full of enemies, so the action is non-stop in the game. It’s complimented by a combo system too, which continually builds up in score as you slice your way through foes (who satisfyingly burst apart when defeated, might I add). Whilst it doesn’t affect gameplay too much, it will help players achieve higher scores in order to unlock better grades when completing a level. I’ve never been too much of a score chaser, but I still couldn’t resist trying to string together as many kills as I could.
“The special abilities and unique weapons at each character’s disposal certainly help them stand out… I mean… Iolo literally whips his enemies with his beard. How cool is that?”
The variety of enemies in Battle Axe will keep players on their toes, with all sorts of different foes to face off against that bring something new to the table. Some might attack up-close, some might launch ranged attacks at you, whilst some might come from nowhere, catching you out with vicious attacks that take a chunk of your health (believe me, it happened to me often). It means you can’t go all gung-ho in your approach, but instead have to keep a steady distance from enemies and pick them off with the right kind of attack.
Decide to embrace your inner Leeroy Jenkins and go in all-guns blazing? You’re in for a rough time. Battle Axe is a TOUGH game and players who aren’t careful will find themselves dying over and over again if they don’t strategize their actions. Add to that the traps that are littered across levels and the cool boss fights that’ll take some real perseverance to get through, and it’ll become easy to see that Battle Axe isn’t for the fainthearted. It’s never unfair… just hard.
The difficulty will see players dying a lot and having to start over again, which is where some of Battle Axe’s flaws rear their head. Having to replay levels showed that the mechanics of the game are all fairly simple, with not a whole lot differentiating levels or diversifying the gameplay. Sure, you’ll go to different areas and face different foes, but you’re still doing a lot of the same things over and over again or collecting the same old power-ups. It’d be something if there was a refined upgrade system in place that expanded each character’s skillsets, but players can only really raise their stats or grab a new item with the gold they earn in-game.
“Having to replay levels showed that the mechanics of the game are all fairly simple, with not a whole lot differentiating levels or diversifying the gameplay.”
It’s also guilty of being pretty short. It’s possible to beat Battle Axe in less than an hour during a successful run, with the four levels of the campaign not taking too long to get through. Of course, there is replayability on offer by playing through the different difficulties or by playing as the other characters, but the repetitive nature of the game does mean there might not be a whole lot of incentive to do so – especially since you might have already spent a fair bit of time replaying some levels just to complete the game in the first place.
Despite this, I can’t say I didn’t have fun playing Battle Axe, especially when I played in co-op. It’s limited to just local play and with just one additional player, but it reminded me a lot of the times I spent playing through classic titles on my old Mega Drive with my cousin… good memories. Otherwise, everything in the game is sound and it is satisfying pulverising foes; it can just get a little bit repetitive too.
I can’t end this review without complimenting the art style, which is absolutely stunning throughout. As mentioned, I love 16-bit style visuals anyway, but there’s plenty of charming detail found within Battle Axe that really helps it stand out in the crowd. It’s just packed full of personality and everything flows in impressive motion in-game. That being said, I did notice a few framerate drops here and there during busier sections, but there was nothing game-breaking.
There’s fun to be had playing Battle Axe, but it can feel like a case of style over substance at times thanks to some repetitive gameplay. There’s just not a whole lot of variety to be found in the game, which is something that becomes more apparent after re-playing the levels of its short campaign – something you’ll do a lot of thanks to how tough the game can be.
Still, there are moments where Battle Axe can shine, especially in multiplayer where it feels a bit more thrilling clearing levels. It looks absolutely outstanding too, with the 16-bit style visuals some of the best I’ve seen for some time.
I just wish that the game did a little bit more to keep me invested in the adventure. It’s not a bad game by any stretch of the imagination, but Battle Axe doesn’t offer enough to make it feel like essential playing.
Developer: Henk Nieborg
Publisher: Numskull Games
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Click here to visit the official website.