Newest Review: ... snarl whenever a fighter is struck which I always thought was a nice touch. CONTROLS & GAMEPLAY Barbarian shows that you don't need a... more
Barbarian: The Ultimate Warrior
Member Name: Dentolux
Advantages: Catchy theme song, responsive controls, colourful graphics, visceral combat.
Disadvantages: Lacking in the sound effects department, the single player campaign isn't very long.
GAME BACKGROUND & STORY
Amongst the tripe there was however a 1v1 battler which I enjoyed named Barbarian: The Ultimate Warrior (not to be confused with the insane WWE wrestler who has a thing for face paint.) The game, with more than a passing resemblance to the Conan films, started life on the Commodore 64 before being ported to other home computers such as the Amiga and Atari. As the proud owner of a CPC 464, the Amstrad version is the one I am most familiar with (ah the golden era of gaming, when you had to wait fifteen arduous minutes for the cassette tape to load providing that it didn't crash half way through due to a dreaded syntax error.) Apparently the game caused quite a stir when it came out as the promotional artwork featured a scantily clad page three lovely. Yes, it doesn't matter that the game is violent and gory - the real outrage is that the box art sports a smutty cover. I personally don't see what the fuss is about. The guys can ogle Maria Whittaker whilst the ladies can feast their eyes on Wolf (from Gladiators) posing as the bare chested barbarian.
In the game the player takes control of an anonymous barbarian who is on a quest to rescue princess Mariana from an evil wizard named Drax. You are encouraged to hone your slaying skills at the forest and mountainous wasteland against fellow sword fighters before venturing forth into Drax's lair. Once you load up Drax's stronghold it is time to defeat his eight guards, confront the spell caster himself, free the bikini clad princess and receive whatever "reward" is coming your way. Given the game's manly tone, after gazing upon the lass' curvaceous body, I doubt our hero asked that her highness buy him a pony as his prize.
In terms of sonics I have to say that I love the game's theme song. The in game sound effects are however sparse. All you get are thuds when registering a hit and a satisfying clang whenever two swords clash. Graphically, compared to modern day titles, the sprites come across as blocky, but all things considered they stand the test of time well. The combatants all look the same, but thanks to a good use of colour they distinguish themselves by their different skin tones and range of dyes that have been applied to their clothing. The game boasts four different backgrounds which include the forest, wasteland, Drax's throne room and the fighting pit where Marianna and her captor look down from a balcony at the carnage below. The screen border displays your health, represented by red dots as opposed to an energy bar, and two snakes wrapped around a pillar. The venomous serpents snarl whenever a fighter is struck which I always thought was a nice touch.
CONTROLS & GAMEPLAY
Barbarian shows that you don't need a controller with a trillion different buttons to have a deep combat system. Although you can play through the adventure on a keyboard, the control scheme is designed for a joystick which in those days only had one trigger. By pressing down the fire button and tilting the stick in one of eight directions you can execute different attacks such as an overhead slash, waist high slice and a showboating move were you spin the blade in a propeller like circular motion. Some of the attacks on offer don't even utilise your weapon, so if you really want to it is possible to kick your opponent or inflict a crunching head butt. Release the fire button and the joystick moves your character forward and back. It also allows you to jump and crouch which comes in handy for avoiding certain attacks.
One of my favourite moves is the ability to perform forward and backward rolls. Defensively speaking this comes in handy to get away from your opponent, but the roll can also be used offensively. By rolling into your adversary's legs it's possible to knock them down on their posterior. The impact itself doesn't cause any physical damage, but forcing your enemy to the floor is always an advantageous position to have.
Another move of note is the infamous head chop which decapitates your opponent killing them instantly, irrespective of how much remaining health they have. The finisher isn't as overpowered as it sounds given that it's easy to dodge (to gain enough momentum to inflict the strike you have to spin on the spot which can be seen coming a mile away.) Still it is worth trying during a losing battle in case you get lucky. Winning in this manner is always a laugh as it concludes with a green skinned troll dragging the carcass off screen and kicking the severed skull on the ground as if it were a football. I don't envy the troll's messy cleaning job, but it is good seeing him do something constructive over causing arguments on internet message boards.
Overall I think Barbarian deserves four out of five stars, if only because it is one of the few 1v1 fighters that I remember fondly from the era of shoulder pads and wild hair. How long the game keeps you entertained is dependent on if you have any friends to join you for a competitive two player duel. The single player campaign isn't terribly long and can be bested quickly once you suss out the enemy A.I. Although your opponents gradually get tougher they all are vulnerable to getting pinned against the corner where evading attacks becomes almost impossible. The final battle versus Drax boils down to having fast reflexes and a little bit of luck. You jump and roll over the magical bolts he casts attempting to get from one end of the screen to the other. If the spell connects you suffer instant death, but if you succeed you'll get to revel in the ending which has the princess saying "thank you big boy." I guess those tight shorts the hero wears don't leave much to the imagination.
Summary: Conan themed 1v1 sword fighting game which should appeal to retro gamers.