Nostalgia can be a powerful tool if utilized correctly, but sadly, that’s just not the case with Cybarian: The Time Travelling Warrior; a throwback to classic arcade action. Now, with Ratalaika at the helm, you can indeed expect to net an easy collection of achievements. So much so, you’ll likely nab them all within the space of an hour or two, and most of them long before even then. Does that aspect alone warrant a recommendation? If you’re an achievement hunter, absolutely, but, if you’re here for a classic arcade-like fix, likely not.
The game’s story is relatively bare-bones. Players take on the role of a Conan-esque barbarian that’s been flung from the stone age to a distant future through the use of a mystical broadsword. It now falls to said barbarian to slash his way through a range of enemies as you pursue the endgame. The crux of play sees you beginning each level at a starting point, and working your way to a level’s end point; typically taking on a boss of some sort before being pushed to the next level. It couldn’t be simpler if it tried.
If you’ve played classic Streets of Rage, you’ll feel somewhat at home here. The game adopts a similar framework, being that each level is an assortment of slides that you’ll push through bit by bit. You’ll need to clear each screen of enemies before being shoehorned to the next screen, and you’ll rinse and repeat this process throughout. Sadly, however, this is where the first flaw comes into the view, the game’s combat system. The game’s combat amounts to little more than a single combo of three time-based attacks. That’s that.
The kicker, however, is that if you don’t time your attacks perfectly, you’ll miss a swing and will be left wide open to attacks for a second or two. This might have worked with some more depth and attack diversity, but as it stands, it’s irritatingly repetitive, and frustratingly counter intuitive. Furthermore, most enemies recover far more quickly than you do, both after a successful combo, and a failed combo, meaning that you’re going to find yourselves taking attacks that you cant realistically avoid. It can indeed feel rather unfair overall.
That’s not to mention that you only have a meager amount of health, and once fully depleted, you’ll be forced back to the very beginning of a level. Sure, you can indeed buy a single heart using the coins that you’ll pick up from dead enemies and breakable crates, but the balance just doesn’t feel right. You’ll need a total of twenty coins to buy a single heart refill from vending machines scattered throughout each level, however, the coins that protrude from crates and enemies spurt all over the shop, making acquisition difficult.
Several times I found it almost impossible to grab a few coins through no fault of my own, but because the coins had catapulted to areas I could reach without losing health; defeating the whole point. What’s worse, I witnessed a number of occasions in which the vending machine would throw my purchased heart off-screen. Yeah, thanks for that! That being said, it’s absolutely possible to run through each level without ever needing to replenish health, but it takes a great deal of patience due to the aforementioned enemy reaction time.
You’ll get a couple of new abilities along the way through defeating the game’s bosses; a dodge roll and a sword throw, but nothing to truly write home about. Drawing back to my point about nostalgia being a powerful tool, Cybarian: The Time Travelling Warrior certainly looks like a classic. The problem, however, is that it feels like it belongs to that era. There’s no mechanical depth present, nor is there much replay value. Sure, that may be the point, but still, many throwbacks of recent times look the part, but play much more modern-like.
That’s not the case here. Cybarian: The Time Travelling Warrior would have greatly benefited from more length, more gameplay depth, and more innovation. Instead, what you’re getting is a game that never truly evolves. The first stage plays just like the last, albeit with a different band of enemies and a different backdrop. Speaking of the enemies, there’s not a great deal of variation here, in fact, they all come across quite generic and dull. Rounding that off, they all house just the one attack pattern, making them easy to suss.
Thankfully, the boss battles are much more engaging. Bosses tend to house a range of varying attacks, and although they use said attacks in the same sequence every time, it was refreshing to feel combat-challenged. Outside of combat, you’ll need to sharped your platforming skills. Cybarian: The Time Travelling Warrior is chock-full of sections (more so later in) that require bouncing from platform to platform, most of which are surrounded by deadly hazards; spikes, fire, and a mixture of both. These can be a blessing and a curse.
I appreciate a game that allows me to platform. It’s one of the most basic elements in gaming, and if done correctly, the empowering feeling is like no other. Whilst this game gets its platforming right a lot of the time, there are several occasions in which you’ll be inadvertently stuffed into a death loop if you misstep; caught in a cycle of taking damage from flames and spikes that you cant seem to avoid. It’s not a major drawback, but something you’ll certainly want to be mindful of if you decide to invest in the game.
That, ladies and gents, is the core aim of play. You’ll dive on in, be thrown to a level, will kill anything that stands in your way, platform all over, kill a boss, get a new ability, and move on. That sounds decent on paper, but in practice, the game’s faults make for a substandard trek. I’ll commend the game’s visual and audio design mind, being that the former offers a nice portion of detail and variation across the board, with the latter providing suitable cues and a passable soundtrack. I wont say they’re collectively great, but serviceable nonetheless.
When all is said and done, Cybarian: The Time Travelling Warrior just isn’t a good experience. The game gets more wrong than it gets right, and as a result, feels more irritating than it does fun. If you’re looking for a game to take you back to the bygone era of classic arcade action platforming, you may want to look at other options in the market before coming here. Solid boss encounters and some passable audio and visual design doesn’t quite stand tall enough alone to warrant a recommendation from me, I’m afraid.
I’ll commend the game for being faithful to the era that it attempts to adopt, but outside of a few decent boss encounters and some serviceable visual and audio design, Cybarian gets a lot more wrong than it gets right. The combat is far too bland, the game is littered with cheap deaths, and above all else, it’s chock-full of irritating design choices that make for an overly frustrating, somewhat boring trek. Less is not always more, as evident here.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.