But this axe is juuuuuuust right!

It’s time to put on your bearskin cloak, sharpen your battle axe, and get ready to whack some skeleton soldiers—a whooooole lot of skeleton soldiers.

At first glance, Barbearian looks like an indie kiddie game with nothing to challenge or interest a serious gamer. This is not the case. It may look cute, but don’t let this lull you into a false sense of security. Yes, the skeleton soldiers are easy to kill with your axe, but there are enough of them to pose a real threat. After all, it doesn’t take very many hits to be overcome and sent off to the Tubing station. Plus, they have Captains who are much tougher to kill. (Don’t worry, we’ll get to the tube thing in a moment.)

Barbearian’s layout is fairly standard stuff. You start in a central area in which you can buy upgrades and training, get information on the game (from a talking duck), or take a portal to a specific level.

As you already guessed, you have to clear (or at least survive) the first level before you can access the second, and so on. You can go back to levels you have survived to see if you can clear them a little better or gain more game coin. By the way, what the game drops as “coin” looks like fruit, candy, donuts, cake, and other goodies. Yes, you will be replaying levels, as game currency comes slowly in the beginning and skeleton soldiers come quickly from the start.

This leads us back to the Tubing station. When the enemy overwhelms you and you die, you go to a Tubing station operated by a tree creature. He is supposed to put you in a tube so you can be shuttled off to the afterlife, but it seems you have a sponsor in the realms of power, and the tree creature has been instructed to send you back to do battle. Don’t think you’re getting off for free; the gods require a percentage of your coin hoard (everybody wants a piece of the action). There is a bit of a respite in the game; there is a well on each round, and if you have 500 coins you can whack it to restore hit points. Be careful, you only get one well per level.

In addition to the standard “Stay alive” directive, there is another goal. In each round is a captured villager. If you free this person before the holding cell time runs out, he/she will follow you as a loyal minion. You can spend some game coin to upgrade your villager to either a foot soldier or an archer.  After all, every Barbearian needs a personal minion army, right?

The settings feature a few interesting adjustments. You can turn up or down the game speed. The default setting can be challenging enough, but you can turn it up a couple of notches to really keep you on your toes. If you like pain, you can even turn up how much damage you take from enemy attacks. If you flunked economics, you can turn down the rate at which the game provides loot. The camera zoom can be adjusted, and the text can be altered (a very welcome setting for those of us who are already nearsighted enough). One setting I will suggest you change even before playing is the music volume; it’s loud to start.

The graphics are a bit cartoonish, and the audio effects are bouncy and happy. I don’t mind because this is a game which doesn’t take itself too seriously; Barbearian hides its challenge behind simple imagery. One interesting visual detail is the use of light. There are small path lights sprinkled around each round which can be used as a peripheral alert system. Enemies will cast shadows for what looks to be a few feet, so even though the skeletons are sneaky the extra shadows are a good alert to turn and start swinging.

When you get the upgrade for a machine gun, you don’t actually get perpetual firepower. You will need to collect a machine gun icon drop during each round, if there is one. Once you find this drop, you only have 50 rounds. By the way, your ability to aim with any real precision is marginal at best. Evidently, the Barbearian is not used to recoil. There are a few special attack options you get in addition to your axe, like a charge attack and rage mode. The game does a good job of pointing out new options when you are ready to use them.

There are other gifts the game will drop for you, but you have to be quick to collect them. You can pick up parcels which give you double speed for a few seconds, a couple of moments of invulnerability, and a few others. One feisty little gift drop is a small, yellow box which announces its presence with a honk (think old style car horn). If you can catch it (yes, it will run away from you) you get a large payout of game coin. Take too long, and it laughs at you and disappears.

As alluded to at the top of the article, there is more to Barbearian than first meets the eye. There is no gore, no overly shocking or scary imagery, or anything to offend.

The game looks to be kid-friendly, but offers enough challenge to keep any gamer busy for a while. It is lighthearted and fun to play, and I think we can all use a little more of that kind of game.