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Holy Avenger Preview

Holy Avenger is the new beat 'em up based on the Brazilian comic sensation of the same name. Although in Early Access, the game is already shaping up to be a welcome blast form the past. Battle with fists, swords, spells and yo-yo's in this cell-shaded tribute to classic gaming and classic comics!

Holy Avenger Preview

introduction

If you're a sucker for classic beat 'em ups like Double Dragon, X-Men, and The Simpsons Arcade Game, then you know the pain of scouring Steam for quality titles that scratch the button-mashing itch. Aside from a few standouts–Double Dragon: Neon and Castle Crashers come to mind–there are precious few side-scrolling, multi-plane beat 'em up titles that succeed in both the nostalgia and gameplay realms.

That's why we're excited for Holy Avenger, an early access game available on Steam, which is based off the hit Brazilian comic of the same name. With smooth graphics and button-mashing, hack-n-slash action, this could be your next beat 'em up fix.

story

The story in Holy Avenger roughly follows the comics, which is a blend of The Jungle Book and Marvel Comic's The Infinity Gauntlet. In short, the wild-life raised, teenage, sword-wielding Lisandra, embarks on a quest to collect twenty gems crafted by the gods in order to resurrect a great hero, the Paladin.

Along the way, Lisandra is joined by the reptilian, hammer-wielding father-figure Tork, the yo-yo armed thief with a famous lineage Sandro, and the scantily-clad elfen sorceress Niele. Together, they pound their way through legions or orcish warriors to complete Lisandra's quest.

Currently, the story is told through in-game engine cut scenes without dialogue, and takes players through the four playable character's initial encounters. It's just enough to make you want more of the story, which will be tough, given the comic's lack of an English translation; luckily, the it's also enough to fire up your sword-swinging bloodlust.

Holy Avenger Preview - The game has nice motion-blur effects.

gameplay

The format of Holy Avenger will be familiar to any who've ever picked up a classic beat 'em up; movement is allowed up and down, right and left along a 2D plane made to mimic a 3D area of space. Enemies appear at pre-determined points on the map, and you have to align your character on the same horizontal plane as the enemy in order to strike them (or move off of that plane in order to avoid being hit.)
That's a fancy way of saying you fight along a road, presented from the side. This road may actually be rooftops, cave floors, or fortress turrets, but they operate the same. There are two attack buttons/keys, and pressing them in certain orders allows players to string together flowing combos, which send opponents flying into blinking, ultimately disappearing heaps. There's also a jump button, and a double-tap directional dash. The dash and jump, when combined with an attack button, also offer different attacks for each character. The game is currently single player, and allows the player to change characters with the press of a button. A controller works splendidly with this title, and is the ultimate way to play it, if you want to recapture some retro beat 'em up bliss. 
Eventually, indie developers Messier Games & Animations plan to incorporate 4-player local co-op, with each player controlling Lisandra or one of her three companions. It remains to be seen if the amount of enemies, or their difficulty, will be increased when playing co-op, but they likely will; this is because solo players controlling all four characters share a single life bar, but co-op players will presumably all have individual health meters, if developer screenshots are anything to go by.

Holy Avenger Preview - Four player couch co-op is in the works.
The game, while definitely a classic beat 'em up experience, does have some nice features that mix things up. There are floors that crumble underfoot, platforming segments, and enemy flowers that launch wind-driven, direction-changing death spores. There are also minor puzzles and actions that require certain characters to resolve, such as trees that must be bashed by Tork, or runes that must be activated by Niele. This also may be interesting in co-op, as certain characters cannot be allowed to die, if obstacles such as those are to be passed. How Messier Games handles this remains to be seen, but it has the potential to add unusual strategic elements to the otherwise traditional beat 'em up formula.

graphics and sound

The graphics are done in a cell-shaded, Double Dragon: Neon style, and the backgrounds and objects are very World of Warcraft in feel; this isn't a surprise, given Holy Avenger artist Erica Awano's work on the Warcraft: Legends manga-style comic from TokyoPop. There are great animation effects that happen on-screen in the background, also, such as lighting effects, falling signs, and scampering fauna.

Currently, the visual work has gone almost entirely into the gameplay, as the limited menus are clearly works-in-progress. The sound and music is similarly in-progress, but there's enough present to forget the game's early access status as you battle your way to victory.

Holy Avenger Preview - Platforming and fighting sometimes go hand-in-hand.

conclusion

Holy Avenger is still early in its life stage, and is correctly identified by the dev team as being in alpha. The great news for those of us eager to play the game is that a lot already works great–the animations are mostly smooth, the graphics are pretty, and the action is enjoyable.

There are bugs, such as one that zoomed the camera in too close, and a few instances where enemies became locked off-screen, making it impossible to progress. These didn't keep us from enjoying Holy Avenger, however, and at the alpha level, we've played a lot of games far less complete and less functional. Hopefully, this means Holy Avenger will make it to a worthwhile full release; if it sounds up your alley, then consider contributing to the project, and moving it one step closer to awesome!

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