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.
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.
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 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!