Wulverblade Review (Nintendo Switch)
There are certain games that live in reverence here at Glitch Free Gaming – Final Fantasy VI, Metal Gear Solid 3, Tomb Raider, Sonic the hedgehog 2 and Golden Axe. Golden Axe is arguably the pinnacle of the beat ‘em up hack and slash genre. It is also personally responsible for robbing my childhood of any spare change I had. There are others who share our passion for Sega’s arcade classic and have, as a result come up with Wulverblade.
Developed by Fully Illustrated, Wulverblade is a 2D side scrolling beat ‘em up set in Ancient Britannia. It follows the story of a tribe as they battle the infamous Ninth Roman Legion as they try to conquer Caladonii. As alluded to in our intro, Wulverblade draws much of its inspiration from Golden Axe. There are three characters to choose from; Caradoc the leader who is balanced between speed and power; Brennus the powerful tank and Guinevere the fast and agile warrior. From here you embark on eight levels of hack and slash heaven.
Think about everything you loved about classic beat ‘em games and you’ll find a spot of it in Wulverblade. There are food drops to replenish your health, jumping, dodging, rolling and even running charge attacks. There are also the boss fights at the end of each level. These in particular are jam-packed with homages to the classic beat ‘em ups of the past. Bosses will often follow a pattern that can be worked out; have minions that will join the fight at regular intervals and have a special attack you best get out of the way of should you not wish to burn through your lives.
Speaking of lives, Wulverblade has some really cool options for you when playing through the game. Of course, there is the ability to play local co-op with a friend, but you can also choose to play the game in either normal mode or arcade mode. Normal mode offers each player three lives and then the ability to restart from checkpoints when you both die. Arcade mode is going old school; three lives and three continues to complete the entire game. The choice is a neat touch for fans of the genre and just adds to the attractiveness of the package that is Wulverblade.
Not content with being an excellent example of a classic beat ‘em up, Wulverblade has a few new tricks that it brings to the party. Playable characters have a block button. This is very handy due to the number of enemies in the game that have projective weapons such as throwing daggers and arrows. Players also have access to not one, but two specials attacks. Once per level, characters are able to summon wolves to attack enemies. They will kill any and all normal enemies on the screen when summoned. There is also the berserker mode that characters can enter once their rage meter has filled. Whilst in this mode, characters are not only invincible, but they can gain health back for each enemy they kill. Another feature worth mentioning, that is most welcome, is the arena mode. Essentially this is Wulverblade’s version of horde mode where you pick a stage and see if you can outlast the onslaught of enemies.
Graphically, Wulverblade is as gorgeous as it is fun to play. The cartoon style world looks absolutely stunning. Stags and deer run in the background of the action whilst strange figures lurk in the shadowy foreground before revealing themselves as they try to murder you. There is a set piece that takes place on a bridge at sunset where you can only see the shadows of the characters. It is as stylish as hell and will be one of those moments you can’t wait to play again because it is just so cool.
Due to the story it’s telling, Wulverblade is a bit of a bloody affair. Bits of limbs, torsos and heads litter the landscape as you hack and slash your way through the story. It is also possible to use the hacked up pieces of the enemy as a projectile. Nothing says “stop invading us” more than clobbering a roman with his own severed arm! All of this ties into the historical accuracy of the game which is another thing that proves that Wulverblade is a labour of love. Scattered throughout the levels are collectables that give you pieces of information about the specific time in history you are playing through. These can be viewed during the game, or can be accessed through the extras menu. The level select screen in normal mode also contains a map of Ancient Britain that not only has the levels you’ve unlocked so far, but also locations the developers visited whilst making the game. Most of these are short videos detailing the location and what inspiration it gave and where in the game it was used. The whole thing is a strange cross between history lessons and the behind the scenes of a videogame, and it works very well.
If you have been following along so far, you’ll realise that there have been no negative points raised about Wulverblade. That is because the only issues we had was performance related. The game runs generally well on the Nintendo Switch but we did find instances where things would slow down if there were too many enemies on the screen. The loading times seemed to be longer than we are used to these days and we had the game crash completely on a few instances on loading screens. We also experienced some lag in button presses to the characters performing the actions we pushed the buttons for. Again these seemed isolated to when the screen was filled with enemies. Luckily all of these issues were not persistent and presumably can be easily fixed with an update.
And even after having a few hiccups, we cannot recommend Wulverblade enough. It has the feel of Double Dragon and Golden Axe while managing to add in all new elements to breathe life into the genre. The passion of Fully Illustrated is clearly evident in Wulverblade, and is probably why it is one of our surprises of the year. Plus, any game where you can hurl a head at your enemies has to be cool
9 dead Romans out of 10