Golden Axe…an axe to grind

Posted: June 18, 2009 in Platformer

Sega was the pre-eminent video game company of the late 1980s to mid-1990s so it’s no surprise that the popular content from way back when would eventually find its way to the iPhone/iPod Touch platform. First came Sonic the Hedgehog, and now Golden Axe makes its appearance. Despite the lack of optimizations for the platform which will undoubtedly meet with complaints, Golden Axe plays remarkably well and delivers good old school hack and slash. Graphics aside which hold true to the original, the controls work well within an entertaining framework, but the length could be an issue.

Golden Axe has a distinctly medieval theme with story focusing around the kidnapping of the King of Yuria and his daughter as well as the theft of the Golden Axe by the evil Death Adder. The game has 5 levels: Opening Battle, Turtle Village, Across the Sea, Fiend’s Path, and Castle. As the player, you have the option of selecting from one of three heroes: Ax Battler, a two handed, sword-wielding barbarian; Tyris Flair, a female, sword bearing warrior; and Gilius Thunderhead, an axe-swinging dwarf. Each character has a different set of skills when it comes to defense, attack, evasion, and magical powers.

The controls—a d-pad for movement and three ability buttons labeled A, B, C—are actually better than I expected and rather easy to learn and use. An accelerometer option is included as an alternative to the d-pad, but the d-pad feels more accurate. The ability buttons serve different functions with A for activating spells, B for attacking and defending, and C for jumping. These buttons can be combined to create special attacks that inflict more damage. For example, by attacking and jumping, a powerful downward slash is possible depending which hero is in play. Jumping and attack in unison also evokes a special skill attack.

In addition, there are spells that are charged by attacking the Blue Thief, and strength building with the Green Thief. The Blue Thief when attacked drops magic potion which can be collected by the hero. Once this occurs, a Magic Meter appears in the game screen. Each hero has a different magic ability as illustrated by their Magic Meter—Tyris is the most powerful and casts fire; Ax Battler is in the middle and casts ground explosions; Gilius is the weakest and casts lightening. Blue Thieves that look like little ferrets will appear, and each hero will have the opportunity to secure magic potion by attacking them. The objective is to attack and collect as many as possible before they take off. Green Thieves will drop food when attacked and which will help with boosting the hero’s healthbar. There are bonus levels in between the stages where the sole objective is to kick some Blue and Green Thief ass and collect potions.

As you progress through the stages, the hero will face numerous enemies, both male and female, usually armed with clubs and axes as well as skeletons and knights. Some will appear riding Bizarrians, which is essentially a fancy name for dragons. These dragons come in two forms: one that uses its tail to attack, and another that breathes fire. The neat thing is that you can knock an enemy off the Bizarrians and ride and use them yourself. Destroying enemies is the entertaining part of Golden Axe because the enemies like attacking from behind. I will say that the AI can be questionable at times, although simultaneous attacks in the later levels add some difficulty. In general, I found the levels provide some good hacking fun so you won’t get shortchanged there.

The game offers credits for a limited number of “continue games” after the hero is finished off. The way this is set up is confusing, and initially I had no idea where to tap to continue a game. The answer is to tap on the Start button which is a tiny button located in the upper right corner. The Start button can also be used to access the menu at anytime during the game.

Overall, my fault with Golden Axe is not with the graphics or the controls because the gameplay is perfectly fine with smooth animations. Where I think there may be an issue is with the shortness of the game and the number of levels. A classic old school offering, Golden Axe is definitely worth trying if hack and slash is your type of game, but just be aware of the caveats.

Albie Meter: 3.5 Stars (the game plays fine and if you played and liked the original console version or have a hankering for old school games, this should be right up your alley)

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