Barbarian – The Death Sword ($1.99) is a clunky, boring remake of the 1987 Amstrad CPC game Death Sword. The gory 2D fighter controls badly and looks dated, is sluggish, needs major control tweaks and is too difficult.
The worst thing about the game, though, is its appalling hit detection. Even if it’s clear that you’ve hit an enemy whilst attacking him, there’s every chance that the blow won’t be detected. If it is detected, the animation will lag and the enemy will suddenly flinch a few blows later. The game includes some kind of special attack which involves
the screen slowing down as you launch an aggressive offensive. But the animation is rubbish, meaning these attack segments only serve to highlight the game’s flaws.
The app veers from frustratingly easy to unfairly difficult. When I first played the game, I attempted to do so using traditional fighter tactics – dodging enemy attacks, finding their weaknesses and exploiting them. But the dodgy controls and unreliable hit detection make this tactic impossible to sustain: If you leave a window of opportunity for the enemy, he will take advantage of possibly the most frustrating combat element of the game, decapitation. Decapitations end the battle immediately and can only be avoided if you don’t give the enemy any significant opportunity to attack. To avoid this happening, I decided to try out the coward’s tactic of holding the ‘move right’ button and consistently tapping attack. This technique got me through every battle until the final boss. Every battle. The best tactic to use in progressing through the game is to ignore the depth of the combat system entirely and to instead tap and hope. That’s not great.
I’ve not been able to defeat the final boss, who spurts out fireballs – the only point in the game where this mechanic is present. Being hit by just three fireballs kills you. Every time I attempted to avoid them, the controls didn’t pick up my input in time and I was hit. Because I haven’t defeated the final boss, I’ve not unlocked the game’s arcade or survival modes. Based on how far from entertaining the story mode is, I doubt I’m missing much.
In conclusion, Barbarian – The Death Sword is terrible. It might be half decent if the controls were far more responsive, the hit detection more predictable and the animation smoother. As it is, the game is impossible to recommend.
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