I’ve said it before and I’ll almost certainly say it again: innovation is great…but only if it’s not at the expense of solid fundamentals. In other words, when we’ve got a game like Mario Odyssey that does some new and interesting things while still feeling like Mario, that’s great! If, on the other hand, we’ve got a game like Final Fantasy XIII that discards much of what made its series work in favor of trying something new, that’s maybe a little less awesome. That’s relevant when it comes to Wulverblade, a brawler that doesn’t care much for innovation – it just wants you to brawl, and brawl you shall.
When Rome sets their sights on the conquest of Britain, warrior Caradoc and his companions Guinevere and Brennus are having no part of it. When other Briton tribes join the Romans, they’re especially having no part of it. This wasn’t an era when problems were solved with words, so Caradoc and pals are going to rebuke the Romans in somewhat more brutal fashion.
Said rebuking takes the form of beatings, of course. Choose one of our heroes – your balanced guy, your quicker-but-weaker girl and your big smashy guy – and get to beating distribution. You’ve got two flavors of basic attacks (light hits and heavy hits, the latter of which are unlocked if you pick up a limited-use secondary weapon), a block, a dodge roll, a guard break and a parry. In a pinch you’ve got a super attack and a refilling power bar that offers temporary invincibility and healing. It’s all fairly straightforward beat-em-up fare, reminiscent somewhat of the Golden Axe series from times hence; getting a handle on how all of this works will prove invaluable as Wulverblade’s difficulty curve is fairly steep.
You’ve got a few modes in which to dish out Briton justice, though most players will probably end up focusing on the story mode, which offers a surprisingly salient plot to follow and a lot of bonus content to dig around for if you’re into that kind of thing. Other options include a more difficult arcade mode and a survival arena. You can play co-op as well, which is really the ideal way to play; the classic beat-’em-ups of old were always best served by teaming up with a friend, after all.
I’ll have to admit to a little bias when it comes to Wulverblade’s presentation. The gritty cartoon style is reminiscent of the Shank games for which I’ve got an unhealthy fondness, so I’m predisposed toward thinking this looks great. Like those games, Wulverblade is somewhat gruesome as well, a nice contrast with the cartoon style. It also sounds great as well, particularly when it comes to the narration in the story mode.
Bottom line: Wulverblade is a pretty solid experience all-around even if it doesn’t expand the horizons of the beat-’em-up. That’s a genre that didn’t really need expansion, in any case; if the fighting feels good and you’ve got a pressing urge to keep stomping Romans, the game must be doing its job, right? With that in mind, this one’s worth checking out; consider it a must-play if you’ve got friends who are into this sort of game as well.