If you're like me, you love 2D games, especially ones that do it all so here's the jam-packed Batbarian: Testament of the Primordials.
Batbarian has you play as either a male or female barbarian who falls into a mysterious underground city after being pushed off a cliff by a guard who accuses them of stealing. After landing and thankfully not perishing in the process, it's your job to figure out where you are and hopefully escape. Meanwhile, you're not alone because you have a bat friend who helps you on your adventure; hence the title.
If this sounds like a silly premise to you then you'd be correct because Batbarian is full of hilarious scenes complete with branching dialogue options so whenever you meet an NPC, you can steer the conversation in interesting ways. Some may even join you and offer a unique ability to your repertoire. It's all presented with pixel-perfect visuals and the soundtrack is just fantastic with its old-school jams.
Although all of this is sounding great so far, how Batbarian plays is obviously the most important part and I'm happy to say that it features rewarding gameplay that's tight and intuitive. All you mostly do is run and jump around while attacking enemies but where things get interesting is in the fact that you can throw things like rocks to activate switches or different kinds of fruit that make your bat behave in certain ways. This bat is magical so whenever it gets close to certain crystals, they become activated so throwing fruit near these crystals is a core mechanic in the puzzle-solving aspect and let me tell you; some of these puzzles can be quite clever and rewarding.
The simple combat and tricky puzzles come together well in Batbarian's elaborately-designed world which makes exploration an absolute treat. For starters, you don't have to solve puzzles more than once because after you figure something out, a platform or elevator usually appears which allows you to explore that room freely from then on. I can't overstate how important this very subtle feature is because it takes a lot of potential tedium out of backtracking to find treasures and secrets. Speaking of which, there are a lot of them.
One aspect that I wish was more fine-tuned about Batbarian is its platforming because jumping isn't nearly as precise as it should be so whenever you have to leap to a small platform, it can be highly irritating stuff, especially if it makes you fall down a few rooms thus setting you back to a point where you have to re-traverse multiple rooms to attempt the jump again. This doesn't happen often, though.
Similarly, some combat scenarios with regular enemies can feel unfair because you might have hazards like fireballs flying everywhere as you jump to weave through airborne enemies, deal with charging ground foes, and try to solve a puzzle at the same time. It can get overwhelming fast so I kind of wish there was a move that let you clear out nearby foes or at least push them away for a bit.
Finally, Batbarian is one of those Metroidvanias where it's easy to get lost and not know where to go next. To remedy this, they could have had you get a clue from your bat or something but instead, you just have to run around aimlessly until you figure it out.
Batbarian has you play as a barbarian who's friends with a bat and that's pretty cool. Not only that; its gameplay strikes a perfect balance between combat and puzzles to make a supremely rewarding formula and it's quite funny to boot.
- + Incredibly-designed world that's filled with clever puzzles and tricky situations
- + Great music and sense of humour
- + Lots of secrets add substantial replay value
- - Platforming can be frustrating at times
- - Certain combat scenarios can feel unfair
- - It's sometimes hard to know what to do