X-Blades Review: A Slashing Good Time
The formula Gaijin used for the design of SouthPeak’s latest hack-n-slash game “X-Blades” is almost mathematical: take one pretty girl (preferably a treasure hunter), add swords and/or guns (both in this case), some kind of mystical power, and a whole lot of att-i-tude, subtract clothing and bam, you’ve got a game dudes will buy. Even though this formula is pretty tried and true at this point, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve got a good game on your hands. The final sum of “X-Blades”’ equation is a game that might not appeal to everyone, but it’s still pretty fun for what it is.
Even though there is an “M for Mature” rating slapped on the front of the “X-Blades” box, the heroine’s barely covered bottom is going to alienate a few different groups that might have given the game a shot. First, the ladies; who may find the lead character Ayumi a little too sexy, and a little too perky for their tastes. Secondly, most self-respecting gentlemen may not be giving “X-Blades” a run, because they may find it to be a bit below them, in terms of intellectual stimulation, as well as overall entertainment value. Fortunately for “X-Blades” it’s a good thing that there aren’t a lot of gamers in either of those categories. Back in reality, there is one group of gamers that this game may turn off pretty quickly - the ones that don’t like anime. At its heart, “X-Blades”’s story is very inspired by anime, so, if you have any kind of aversion for Japanese cartoons this game might not be for you. However, anyone that’s looking to have a little bit of mindless fun slashing and shooting tons of baddies at once, just to finish them off with some kind of short cutscene prompted mystical spell, all while staring at a darling piece of eye-candy, then you might want to give “X-Blades” a chance.
It’s not a deep game, so don’t look to “X-Blades” to win any Writers Guild awards. In fact, the story of the game is quite basic, following the inconceivably dressed Ayumi on a treasure hunt looking for two all-powerful orbs (yes, there’s some level of irony there). On her quest to find the Light and Dark orbs she is cursed and runs into quite a bit of resistance in the temple that houses these treasures, and she has to battle her way to her prizes, taking on everything from dinosaurs to specters, and even a couple giant spiders along the way. In other words, you’ve probably heard the story before, but that doesn’t matter, this is a hack-n-slasher, you just want to get to the hacking and slashing anyways, which is good, because there’s plenty of it.
Much like the story, the game’s controls are very basic; “X” slashes, and the right trigger fires your pistol-blades (did I not mention the pistol-blades yet? They’re kinda awesome.). The rest of the buttons are used to house the attack spells that you Ayumi purchases throughout the game, most of which are inspired by elements (fire and ice), but some of the more important ones are taken from the Light and Dark forces in the game. It’s all been made really easy to get used to, and shortly after you pick up the controller you’ll be mashing on the “X” button, racking up hundred-hit combos, or pulling off room clearing magical attacks. When you break it down, there’s a lot of “X” pressing, but along the way, as you collect in-game artifacts, you unlock different combos, as well as melee and shooting upgrades, peppering the later levels of the game with a bit more of a variety of attacks. It’s a nice mix of slashing and shooting, allowing you the play the game with your preferred weapon, and more than a few 3rd person shooters could take a few notes from the really comfortable targeting system in “X-Blades.”
The levels of the game are broken out in a way that most gamers should appreciate, basically you’re given a room to clear out, with a finite number of enemies in it, once they were cleared, you’re done. Most of the levels were pretty short, making the game feel satisfying really quickly, giving you a sense that you’re making progress… Right up until just past the middle of the game, where you were forced to retrace many of your steps through the temple, and play the same rooms, for a second time, with more powerful enemies. While it wasn’t overly annoying, because you may as well be playing the levels in any generic jungle setting, it seemed like a poor choice at the hands of the developers, because no one likes to retrace their steps in a game. Other than that, the gameplay experience wasn’t too bad.
One of the most interesting things I noticed about the game, wasn’t even in the game at all, it was “X-Blades”‘ manual. If you flip to the back of the manual, it essentially includes a walkthrough for each of the bosses, and some of the more challenging enemies in the game, suggesting the best ways to defeat them. Honestly, I, like I assume many gamers, don’t usually flip through the manual, but this time I did, an it was a surprising find. I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about it, but I think that it was convenient of the developers to include information that they may need, right at the gamer’s fingertips, without forcing them to go look for it on the internet. On the other hand, it also encourages the player to just read the manual, and not necessarily “play” the game. Perhaps this may be something more games should consider doing in the future, or maybe not.
The “Hack-N-Slash” genre is an area of gaming that that tends to be a little foreign to me. While I don’t gravitate to these games, I usually have a bit of mindless, button mashing fun when I do get around to giving them a try. However, much like boxing games (for some unknown reason) I don’t think I’ll ever really be able to admit to myself, my friends, and the world, that I’m a fan of them, no matter how entertained I am by them. “X-Blades” tends to fall into this guilty pleasure category just as much as any other slasher title, and it’s basic, mindless, button mashing fun, all-in-all a worthwhile game, as long as you aren’t expecting to come out of it any smarter than you went into it. Also, it demonstrates my theory that there is absolutely nothing wrong with having a scantily clad lead character … nothing at all.