Battle Axe -- A 1990s Whiplash Released In 2020
Indie games like Battle Axe are an interesting case when it comes to their releases, or even their development process, as some are lucky enough to be backed by a large named developer. Other times, more often than not, these games require the help of word-of-mouth as well as successful crowdfunding to even see itself get out of the door. In the case of Battle Axe, this was the case for veteran pixel artist Henk Nieborg. NIeborg was responsible for several sprite works, including Shantae: Risky Revenge, Contra 4, and recently, Xeno Crisis and, according to the Kickstart page, wanted to create this dream project for the longest time.
Powered By The Community, For The Community
After successful crowdfunding earlier this year, Battle Axe was able to secure a release, staffed by several talented members including former Capcom composer Manami Matsumae, who worked on titles including Mega Man 1 & 2 and Final Fight. Fueled by veterans in the industry who have been used to working on projects such as these in the past, it seemed like Battle Axe would be a good fit for those hankering for some retro arcade goodness.
Battle Axe Contains All The Arcade Bells And Whistles (And Quarters)
Upon first look, it certainly seems so, as a small little intro video plays showing the general synopsis of the plot, followed by an announcer yelling “BATTLE AXE!” followed by late-80s early-90s inspired music. The sound almost popped my eardrums clean off, and the lack of a proper volume slider didn’t help as the only options were to turn the sound “on” and “off.” In the quest to make the game as authentically retro as possible, the settings and the game itself are kept as minimal as possible, only offering a “CRT filter” because what retro game isn’t “retro” without scanlines?
Unfortunately, the game looks miles better with the scanline filter off, as the filter comes off as too thick and the lack of settings means players can’t adjust the intensity of the lines. Fortunately, the game looks stunningly crisp, like that modern retro feel where it’s a polished game developed in 2020 but the aesthetic of a 90s arcade game. The gameplay reminds me of Gauntlet with its top-down 360-degree movement, complete with an announcer that, well, announces everything you do such as “FAE HAS ACQUIRED A CHICKEN” or “FAE NEEDS HEALTH BADLY”
Red Wizard Needs Food Badly
There are three characters in total, including the assassin character Fae, the heavy shooter Rooney, and the elder master wizard, Iolo. Each character plays different enough yet follow the same control scheme, having a ranged attack, a melee attack, and a dash attack. Some characters, like Rooney who has a rocket launcher and Iolo who attacks with magic, have better-ranged attacks while Fae is better at close range due to her agility.
Iolo easily became my favourite for the sheer purpose of attacking with his beard upon melee range. The mere thought of exploding hoards of goblins into exploding gibs from the swish of extra long facial hair never got old even if he was far better as a long-range caster.
Battle Axe Is Quick, Cheap Fun
Each stage has a boss at the end, as the main objective is to destroy generators while saving prisoners along the way. Saving the prisoners seem to offer very little except for bonus points (and more than likely some trophies) though I wish they would have given me power-ups like the POWs in Metal Slug when you save them.
There’s also an “Infinite Mode,” in which players travel through randomly generated seeds, traversing through each map as they reach the bottom of an endless labyrinth, hence the name. Scores are tallied based on how far a player travelled before they succumbed to their demise. Aside from those two modes and a New Game+ mode for clearing the game, that’s all there is to the game.
Local co-op is a great thing to have in a game like this, but, for the price tag it’s more so buying to support the dream of one man’s fan project and owning the physical edition is a no-brainer for collectors of this sort of thing. However, collectors and die-hard fans of the genre aside, perhaps a sale would be best to wait for. Players of all types, both young and old, should give this a try at least, especially with a second player in tow.
Battle Axe is available on PC, Switch, PS4, and Xbox One