It's a wonderful time to be a gamer. So many high profile, high-quality titles coming only months apart. To break the monotony in-between, we also have access to hundreds of smaller indie gems that although smaller in scope bring about hours of often highly imaginative gameplay and fun.
Barbearian, a game from a lone developer is one such example. A small and simple hack and slash game that somehow manages to be entirely awesome from top to bottom. How so? Let's break it down.
Barbearian is available for purchase on Steam.
STORY AND GAMEPLAY
Right off the bat, Barbearian features no story. It's more of a quirky premise that gives some context to all the hacking and slashing you'll be doing across its many levels. You – the Barbearian have been whisked away by the Arbitrators to represent your species in a series of action-packed trials.
And immediately once you get through the short introduction, you'll find yourself in a HUB area where a series of portals will present themselves. Every portal will then take you to a floating island that's covered with all manner of people and creatures that you'll have to hack and slash through in order to progress. Most of these will be cannon fodder, simply there for the appeal of killing them en masse but some are a bit tougher and act as level bosses. No matter the enemy type, upon death, each one will sprout forth a myriad of different gems and fruit which will act as your currency for upgrades and purchasing weapons.
Levels can also contain some imprisoned NPC's that if rescued quickly, become your allies which you can upgrade to knights or archers in the HUB area. While adding any sort of upgrade to the game is a welcome touch, these allies, which can number in the dozens mainly serve the purpose of reducing enemy pressure off of you – who'll still be doing the bulk of the damage.
Besides the axe, there are other weapons that the Barbearian can use. Most of them are ranged ones that offer the possibility of clearing a lot of enemies at once but they often have limited ammo which will leave you relying on the good old axe most of the time. Besides the regular attack, you can also use a slow charging dash attack and a rage mode that will increase the damage you deal to enemies. The game also randomly spawns a couple of power-ups to help you burn through all the enemies like temporary invincibility, speed boost and a shield that damages enemies that get too close
While the game often gets fairly difficult, it also offers up a flexible difficulty system where you can decide how much damage you'll receive, how fast the enemies move or how much currency you get from each gem. The game controls through keyboard only and Barbearians movement can often feel like they are locked on a grid. This is surely something that could bug you if you are coming from a keyboard/mouse combo games like Enter the Gungeon.
VISUALS AND AUDIO
One look at the screenshots and you can see that Barbearian is an extremely pretty, colorful and vibrant game. Despite the cartoony simplicity of its textures, the developer found a way to cram so much detail in its every corner. From the characters, environments and even the sides of the floating islands the game takes place on have something that makes them visually appealing.
Despite that, the main focus of the game is destroying things and from a visual perspective, the Barbearian blows it out of the park. Every piece of the environment can be destroyed along with your enemies and the game excels at giving you satisfying audio/visual feedback each time you do so. Since most levels are filled to the brim with either enemies or environmental objects all the flashing lights and flying debris can often feel overwhelming and is definitely something to avoid if you suffer from any form of photosensitivity. For everyone else – it'll be like a literal day at the Christmas carnival.
Add to this the fact that the game is insanely light on your PC specs and runs buttery smooth even if there are a hundred enemies on screen and you have such an appealing visual package that can put much larger games to shame.
During the gameplay, you'll be constantly followed by a couple of upbeat tracks. While they do set the quirky hack and slash mood right you'll be bored of them pretty soon as they all sound like a variation of the same theme.
There's a lot of hacking and slashing to be done across Barbearians many levels which will take you anywhere from 5 to 8 hours to complete. While I wish it sometimes offered more in terms of player progression and combat diversity, its main draw is exactly its pick-up and play accessibility and gameplay simplicity. It's definitely a pinata of visual spectacle that remains fun throughout and it goes without saying that if you like a simple, fast-paced hack and slash game for an affordable price – the Barbearian is a no-brainer.
|+ Awesome visuals||– Lack of enemy variety|
|+ Excellent combat feedback||– Lack of music variety|
|+ Simple yet satisfying gameplay||– Underutilized gameplay systems|