Nine times out of ten side scrolling action platformers don’t catch my attention, it’s not that they’re bad, they’re just not my favorite genre. To me, they’re a break from the usual buffet of titles I frequent that can range from Ark: Survival Evolved to Dad Quest. For an action platformer to grab my attention, it has to shake things up a bit. Be it story, graphics, or wacky mechanics, a game really needs to give me something to sink my teeth into.
Hidden Dragon: Legend is set within the turbulence of the Chinese Tang Dynasty in 737 A.D. A warrior named Lu wakes up in prison with no recollection of who he is or how he got there, stumbling out into the dead of night hoping to find answers. He comes to learn he was imprisoned by a secret organization, but the explanation of who is stops there. Sending him on a quest to find out the truth about his past and to stop this secret organization once and for all.
Which is a shame, as the opening scene had me hopeful since the atmosphere is pitch-perfect. Lu waking up completely alone in a dark prison with the slow drip of water (or is it blood?) in the background made my hair standup on end. When he slowly makes his way through the prison, dragging his leg and gripping his side in pain, he discovers that he’s the only living soul present. Dead bodies are everywhere and torture equipment is scattered throughout the complex, offering only a hint of the suffering that went on behind those walls. The bodies would drop at random moments, the echo of their flesh hitting the stone floor causing me to flinch. The experience is one of the most unnerving I’ve ever experienced and for that first couple of minutes I bonded with Lu. He was exposed with no way to defend himself, if an enemy stepped out of the shadows Lu would be dead in a matter of seconds.
And sadly, that’s the only good part about Hidden Dragon. After that strong introduction it delves into what felt like any other action-platformer I’d see floating around in a game store, probably tossed into the bargain bin. I wanted Lu and his story of fighting a secret organization to be more, but it never delivers. If it had stuck with its strong introduction and built off of that, it would’ve stood out from the rest of the lineup.
Executing combos didn’t feel necessary most of the time since the majority of the fights consisted of heavy and light attacks. Even when mobs of ninja-like enemies would come dashing across the screen at Lu, just mashing the attack buttons randomly helped to eliminate most them. The only time I had to deviate from my “strategy” is when flying enemies would show up. Defeating them just took a bit of jumping and slashing and within 2-4 hits they would die, barely a challenge.
I wanted Hidden Dragon to impress me. I’m not all too familiar with these more straightforward action-platformers, but I’m willing to overlook bad graphics and mind-numbing gameplay if it gives me something to be excited about. Unfortunately, that never happens here.
To pay credit where it’s due, Hidden Dragon does offer plenty of slice-and-dice combos that, when executed correctly, make for an amazing display of neon lights and enemies flying across the screen. Dealing butt loads of damage and giving me a sense of being some forgotten sword-wielding badass from Chinese history. That said, there wasn’t much else to draw me in.
There’s not much depth to be found in Hidden Dragon: Legend and after a while, I found myself bored to tears. It doesn’t offer much of a challenge and I felt like I could find a better experience at an arcade with a fistful of quarters (if I could only find an arcade, that is). Despite having all the elements, the story is non-existent and there’s rarely a challenge to be had for people looking for a good fight. For anyone who’s craving an action-platformer, I’d suggest just heading over to your local arcade. Or playing some Cuphead, a superior game in every way that’s sure to keep you satisfied for hours.