Knowing that I would soon be elbow deep in the writhing guts of Dark Souls II, I put my hand up to review Strider so I would have a palette cleanser in between bouts of fury caused by cheap deaths that in no way reflect my level of skill. However, Dark Souls II has been stupidly easy thus far and Strider quickly became less of a palette cleanser and more of a meal that I had to get through so I could have some sweet, sweet DS II dessert.
It’s not bad – it just doesn’t do much for me.
I’d tell you all about the Strider franchise at this point, but as I know next to nothing about the series, and don’t have the energy to copy paste a small history from Wikipedia, I’ll let you do it for me. Go on. I’ll wait.
What I knew about Strider before this point was that he was an awesome character to use in the Marvel vs. Capcom games and that, for some weird reason, he had hordes of robot animals at his disposal. I’m not judging the guy, but seriously, get a real pet. They actually love you back. Ever hugged a labrador? It’s like heaven, only it’s real.
Anyway, Mr. Strider is back (I don’t know his name, I’ll assume you call him Mr. Strider and he looks at you like ‘Mr. Strider was my father. You can call me Strider-san’) and ready to take on a horde of villains so bland that if they were an ice-cream flavour, it would be ‘cardboard’, or like a Neapolitan made up of cardboard, ash and tofu. I’m struggling to think of what the main enemies look like, and every time I think of the main villain I keep imagining some weird mix between Mussolini and Stalin. All I know is that he’s definitely a dictator, and that if I think about him for too long I will fall asleep.
See, here’s the thing: Strider is a Metroidvania style game. You got a lot of running around to do in a big place, and that takes time. Now, in any kind of environment that takes a long time to traverse or is limited in some way, you need distractions. For games, this can be visually pleasing aesthetics or challenging enemies or music or puzzles or navigation or story – the list goes on. Strider doesn’t seem to have any of these. You will get over the environments next-gen crispness in about five seconds, because after a while, the city you’ve been dumped in never lets go of its drab and dreary stylings.
There’s a story, but I’m pretty sure it can be summarised as ‘something bad is happening, you go and stop that bad thing’. If I missed any kind of nuance, it’s because there wasn’t any and it wasn’t worth paying attention to if it did exist. Enemies aren’t really challenging or particularly fun to come up against, and even bosses present little difficulty or originality. Maybe it’s a sign of the times, or maybe it’s me – but it just doesn’t have the same feel as something like Mega Man once did, where you shat yourself as you came up against Ice Man or Scissor Man and saw crappy dot pixels coming at you. It’s flashy, but I feel nothing towards it.
Playing as Strider, though, aside from his mincing run, is pretty god damn fun. He slashed his laser sword thing as fast as you can mash the attack button, and he feels light to play with. What do I mean by that? He makes playing with Shank feel like manoeuvring a tank. The combination of quick attacks and playful acrobatics makes you feel like you’re controlling, perhaps not a real ninja, but someone with completely exaggerated ninja skills. The one complaint I have concerning his movement is his wall climbing, as sometimes it will be a little sticky and not as intuitive as I’d like it to be. However, this is a small quibble, and one to be ignored if you live in the first world.
I think my main problem with Strider was that it didn’t have a sense of balance. There’s always plenty of health lying around, and even though you may die at the start doing stupid things, you become very powerful in a short amount of time and start beating everything harder and faster than a Dominatrix at a Parliamentary after-party. Also, the game doesn’t seem to be set up for a challenge. I get the impression they said ‘we should have enemies here because there is space for them’ as opposed to ‘we should set up these enemies here because it would create this challenge in this capacity, and force the player to think of something else’.
You could argue that the different weapon elements you get provide some semblance of strategy, but these were basically glorified keys to gain access to new areas … so I am shelving that thought process. Oh yeah, you can also summon creatures to do a special move that does damage, or so I’m led to believe. As the amount of damage they do is pretty negligible, I’d often forget they were at my disposal, once again proving that a Labrador would have been a better choice.
- Reviewed On