Developer: Fully Illustrated
Publisher: Darkwind Media
Genre: Beat’em up Side Scroller
Available On: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows PC
Version Tested: PlayStation 4
Official Site: Wulverblade
Release Date: Jan 30, 2018
Where to Buy it: PlayStation Store, Steam, Microsoft Store, Nintendo eShop ($14.99)
Feeling nostalgic for beat-em-ups? Do you yearn for the days of Double Dragon, Streets of Rage, or The Simpsons arcade game? Then you’ll feel right at home with Wulverblade. Fully Illustrated has crafted a game that is both a homage to the classics and a refinement that stands completely on its own. With a level of violence and brutality rarely seen in the genre, part of what makes Wulverblade stand out from the competition is the obvious attention to detail that went into every aspect of the game. This was truly a passion project.
The game follows the story of the siblings: Caradoc, Brennus, and Guinevere. They are members of the tribes of northern Britain and are attempting to fend off the invasion of the Roman Legions. Each of these three characters is playable, and each of them plays a bit differently. Caradoc is a well-balanced, Brennus is a large brute who is slower but can take a bit more punishment, and Guinevere is fast and puts out high damage, but is somewhat fragile. I had the most fun with Guinevere, but there is enough difference between the characters to make them all worth playing.
The level of violence I mentioned earlier is front and center throughout the game. You will see blood spray as you slice through enemies, leaving behind body parts such as hands and heads, which you can then pick up and use as a throwing weapon. You can even use a bit of your environment, impaling your opponents on wooded stakes or kicking them into fires to burn to death. This violence mixed with the Wulverblade’s art style is a spectacle to behold.
Speaking of Wulverblade’s art style, it is amazing. It reminds me a lot of something like Samurai Jack with a highly stylised look and feel. Seeing it in still images really doesn’t do it justice; its something that really needs to be seen in motion to fully appreciate. The animations are crisp and fluid, help to make everything consistent fun to look at. The sound design is no weak link either. In particular the sound effects, metal on metal or flesh sound great. The game is also fully voice acted and it really brings the characters to life. This is all backed up by a decent soundtrack with a real folk feel to it.
One of the unique aspects that set Wulverblade apart from the other games in its genre is the developer’s attention to historical accuracy. Several years were spent prior to and during the development of the game researching the history of ancient Britain and the interactions between the tribes there and the Romans. This is not only apparent in the main game itself, but also in the various historical notes, you can unlock that explain a bit about the world and its culture. This is a neat addition that lets you learn about these people and their unique history.
As far as gameplay goes, Wulverblade uses the standard left to right screen progression of its peers. You’ll sit in one area until you have beaten all of the enemies, as you kill the last of them the game goes into a satisfying slow motion so you know you have achieved victory. Then you move right to the next screen and so on and so forth until you reach the boss of the area. You repeat this process eight times across the game’s eight levels. It’s not very original, but it is a tried and true formula, and Wulverblade does it very well for the most part. Occasionally, I did find myself getting frustrated by the various bosses. An important thing to note, this game is hard. Like most games in this genre, it has a fairly high difficulty curve and can be both challenging and, at times, downright punishing. Mastering the game’s controls and learning when to block, roll, and attack is absolutely necessary if you want to make it through all the stages.
Verdict: Wulverblade is a great throwback to the glory days of the 2D Side-Scrolling Beat Up genre. It brings its own refinements and addition to the tried-and-true gameplay of its peers. It looks great, sounds great, and plays great. The attention to detail that went into the stages and the nods to real-world history makes it obvious that this was a passion project for Fully illustrated, and for $14.99 this game is definitely worth picking up. Although you might find yourself struggling with the difficulty at times. The reward for your efforts is worth the pain.
- Beautiful art style and animations
- Tight and solid controls
- Three different characters each with a unique play style
- Lots of nods to history have you actually learning things.
- Steep difficulty curve can be frustrating
- Can get repetitive at times.