'Strider' review - hitting its stride

Friday, 21 February 2014 11:00 AM Written by 

StrcovDeveloper Double Helix Games is on a roll. First it was the “Killer Instinct” remake for Xbox One. Now it’s the multi-platform action adventure game “Strider.” This downloadable title calls back the exploration of 2D classics like “Castlevania” and “Metroid,” and combines it with quick twitch combat. Set this gameplay in a beautiful, yet sinister world of government oppression, and the result is a package worthy of $15.

Master assassin Strider Hiryu is sent on a mission by the Strider organization to take out the tyrannical leader of Kazakh. Along the way, Hiryu journeys through various neighborhoods around the city, and encounters many of the leader’s henchmen.

Being created in the same vein of “Metroid” games, many parts of Kazakh are closed until Hiryu learns a power to unlock the doors that block passage. This format of game always exudes a fantastic sense of progression for the player, and “Strider” is no exception.

“Strider’s” exploration is handled by platforming. Hiryu has the ability to climb any wall, and scale any ceiling. He can get pretty much anywhere, which opens the door for plenty of secret areas and hidden collectables.

It’s easy for this open-world setup to veer into overwhelming territory. Fortunately, “Strider” has a distance marker in the HUD that shows whether Hiryu is getting closer or farther from the next objective. Its inclusion is a huge help.

Its structure is reminiscent of other series, but its combat sets it apart. “Strider’s” combat is fast paced, fun, and requires a good balance of speed and reaction. Hiryu swings his blade as fast as the player can mash the attack button. Dodging an attack with a jump, and then going to work by slashing away at a target never got old.

Landing numerous sword slashes in a row without taking damage fills Hiryu’s combo meter. Filling the combo meter completely will enter slow motion and add devastating power to Hiryu’s sword slashes. Attempting to fill the meter provides a challenging meta-game in each battle.

Throughout his journey, he’ll acquire different abilities for his blade such as fire and ice. These abilities will have to be juggled in combat depending on the enemy. Specific enemies are weakened by different blade abilities. These abilities can be switched on the fly with the D-pad.

 

Str1

 

Hiryu learns other abilities like throwing shurikens, and special powers called options. These options use Hiryu’s energy meter, which is separate from his life meter. I used them a few times when in a pinch, but I never felt like they mixed well with the core combat of jumping and sword swinging. They always seemed to interrupt the natural flow of the combat. They went largely ignored.

“Strider” has three difficulty settings, but the default setting has the perfect balance of challenge and satisfaction. I didn’t breeze through “Strider,” and some bosses required a few return battles after I learned from mistakes. No battles, including the final one, felt cheap or unfair, which can often be the case in games with a retro style.

“Strider’s” standout combat has an art style to accompany it. This game has gorgeous environments with a vibrant color palette. The 2D plane is complimented by dynamic 3D backgrounds and foregrounds of detailed cityscapes. Smoke and explosion effects have the appearance of cartoon animation, creating a unique blend of video game, and cartoon style. Each area has its own character, which aids the game’s already strong sense of progression.

 

Str2

 

The game’s replay value is there if you enjoy trying to collect 100% of hidden abilities, concept art, and costumes that are scattered throughout the world. There are also survival modes and time attacks called Beacon Runs that can be played outside of the main story.

“Strider” is available on the 360, PS3, Xbox One, PS4, and Windows, which makes it available to a huge number of gamers. Reboots are all the rage right now with successful series returning like “Tomb Raider,” “Mortal Kombat,” and “Donkey Kong Country.” Add “Strider” to the list of success stories. This is a wonderful callback to the original games that adds new ideas.

 

9.5 out of 10

 

Pros

Fast, twitch combat
Manageable beautiful open world
Fun platforming and exploration

Cons

Special abilities don’t gel with the rest of the combat

 

 Platform    Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4 (reviewed), PC  
 Price  $14.99 
 Release Date  2/18/14 
 Rated  T for Teen 
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