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Golden Axe was a breakthrough fighting arcade game of the early 90's. Not only could three players work together, but they could ride animals, cast spells and perform a wide variety of attacks. Beast Rider uses this prestigious history as the background for a single player brawling game similar to God of War PS2 or Heavenly Sword PS3.
Fighting games revolve around the interaction of two or more characters in some form of physical combat. Players learn to control characters through either memorisation of button combinations to access more advance moves, or by their reactions and accurate timing.
Brawler fighting games extend the general fighting action through sideways scrolling levels, and waves of enemies. Their focus on fast action fighting is much akin to tag team wrestling. Traditionally, brawlers enable up to four people to play together. Players both compete for score and assist each other by killing enemies. Along the way there are usually a variety of weapons that can be picked up and used as well as other environmental interactions. Levels are usually ended by a big boss who must be defeated before players can progress.
Golden Axe: Beast Rider has one trump card up its sleeve - the history of the Golden Axe franchise. It enables those that loved the old arcade game to revisit this world to do battle once more with Death Adder. Apart from this the game picks up the usual button combination attacks seen in modern brawling games. There is the usual progression through each level - blocked by waves enemies - that then provides new abilities and items.
The game does a good job of being true to the Golden Axe mythology, such as it is, although the absence of other players (or indeed a multiplayer mode) may leave some feeling a little short changed.
Players are drawn to Beast Rider through a combination of its old school branding and big brash play style. The game earns its 18 certificate with a busty protagonist and plenty of dismemberment. While this may be seen as playing to the cheap seats (juvenile hard core gamers), it certainly delivers plenty of fun throughout the experience.
The initial casual nature of Beast Rider soon hooks gamers in and has them playing for substantial amounts of time. Most levels can be progressed in an hour or so, but the one-more-go nature of play often turns sessions into all evening affairs.
The 18 certificate of the game is reflected in the gratuitous nature of both the violence and depiction of the main female character. This is a game that lives by its ability to shock and wow the player with gore and dismemberment, although this is largely kept in a battlefield vein, rather than up close tortuous sequences found in more horror oriented experiences such as Resident Evil 4 Wii.
Intermediate players of a suitable age and persuasion should warm to this brawling romp through the landscape. It is more than able to provide distraction, escape, or even relaxation after a hard day at work. It's a shame that this is an experience they are unable to share with younger members of the family - as some would have enjoyed revisiting Golden Axe (from arcade visits of their youth) with their offspring. Here, Castle Crashers 360 is a better option - innovating on the original arcade formula with considerable panache.
Expert gamers are the primary audience for Beast Rider game and should find plenty to enjoy. Although the production values are not up there with Heavenly Sword PS3 and the gameplay is some way behind God of War II PS2 there is still a suitably distracting game here. Turn the difficulty up and you have an experience that will challenge even the most expert of players.
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