Battle Axe (Switch)

Remember the good ol’ coin ops days, throwing 50p into the most violent looking arcade cabinet with a friend and taking on the world, only to get to the second stage and die?. Bitmap Bureau sure do and they are here to remind you of this with Battle Axe!. Grab some change its time to party up and throw down.

Battle Axe is an honest to god, 90s throwback where the developer has smashed Gauntlet together with Zombies Ate My Neighbours and if that statement doesn’t do anything for you then you’re just not my kinda people.

There is a story of the kingdom being enslaved by an evil and only the 3 champions can free it by spreading guts across the Kingdom and saving the innocents. Your champions are an Elf who carries a cannon, a wizard who wields magic and an assassin girl who throws knives and is very handy with her two swords. 

Story isn’t the name of the game here, merely a window dressing for why high fantasy characters are on a blood rage across the land, it’s arcade style so there if you want it but skippable and it won’t harm your experience one bit.

Visually Battle Axe is a treat for fans of the arcade scene and pixel perfection, the characters are beautifully drawn frame by frame and the vibrant colours matched with the visual feedback feeds into that part of your brain that thrives on being rewarded.

The stages are brilliantly diverse and cover the standard High Fantasy tropes you would expect from a game aptly named as Battle Axe. The explosions look suitably meaty and the enemies very distinct while also making use of the old “recolour” trick so prevalent in games of the 8/16 bit generation. 

Now the gameplay in Battle Axe is where you’ll know if this game is for you or not when I say the run time on the “story” is just shy of an hour, you know you’ve got an arcade experience on your hands.

Battle Axe tasks you in exploring the world with a top down view and turning the enemy army into a mist of blood, while collecting items to help and save the innocents before you throw down with some impressive bosses. 

You have melee, ranged and special attacks which change from character to character. Items you can find range from health restoring chicken to magic spells which lay your foes to rest in quick time.

The game stages are quite lengthy which is a good thing considering there is only a handful of them, without game saves or passwords this is one you’re going to have to dedicate a full session too but as mentioned before it does clock in at around an hour so it’s not too demanding.

What is demanding is the difficulty, it’s that old school pattern learning, controller biting difficulty that goes hand in hand with retro and arcade gaming alike. The bosses are tough little cookies especially and will see your lives depleted quite quick unless you have your wits about you. The game starts on the default setting of Hard but you can drop it down to Easy to help get used to the game.

Once you finish the main game you can play a “New Game +” mode which mixes stuff up and has a few new additions to really keep eager players on their toes, a good way to flesh out the short run time.

Multiplayer is sadly local only and this is a real kick as I would have loved to have been able to play with friends further afield but for my local friends the multiplayer was tonnes of fun and reminded me so much of the ZAMN days.

I loved Battle Axe, I love the culture it comes from, the visual style and the pick up and play gameplay. I don’t think it’ll go down as well with every player due to the short run time but for people who love arcade romps you’d be hard pressed to dislike this one. If you were a fan of titles like Gauntlet or the more recent XenoCrisis, Battle Axe is one weapon worth wielding.

4

Summary

Like a mighty relic of the golden years, Battle Axe is both the best and worst of its generation.

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Straight from the streets of SouthTown, all Dunks Powah'd and ready to Bust A Wolf. Catch me on Twitch/YouTube.