Difficult retro-inspired platformers are hardly in short supply, yet Tiny Barbarian DX is attempting to stand out from the crowd. The game starts off quite fun, but the more we played it, the more numerous its shortcomings got exposed. The end result is a game that might land in your “on sale wish list”.
Being able to tackle the game in two-player co-op is both very good, and highly annoying. It’s generally a lot of fun, but there are some sections in Tiny Barbarian that are much more difficult when played as a pair. The camera can struggle, making co-op more trouble than it’s worth. I still played the bulk of the game this way, but I can’t deny that it could’ve been better. Co-op should make games easier, not harder.
Tiny Barbarian is difficult for sure, but not always for proper reasons. Part of the blame could lie with the Switch, whose Joy-Cons lack a d-pad. For example, grabbing a ledge or a vine is problematic. Thankfully you can set the game to Auto Grab. Why it’s buried in the options and not on by default is unknown, but it does improve the game some. Difficulty also stems from a lack of polish in parts. Glitches result in needless loss of health.
One recurring glitch is just before the first boss. We’d often disappear from the screen and reappear in front of the boss, the effect similar to that of a massive frame skip. The reappearance would usually be on spikes, resulting in health reductions before the fight actually began. Tiny Barbarian has other, smaller, bugs, but I’m not going to list each for space purposes. However, for a game that’s been in development so long, glitches like these disappoint.
The pixel art on display here was probably very impressive in 2011, but in 2017 it looks a little overly familiar, especially for this genre. While I do really like Tiny Barbarian’s animations, parallax scrolling, and vivid colors, I expect more on the Switch. The chiptune soundtrack is decent, and while none of the tracks have stuck with me for whatever reason, they do fit the action well.
The enemies in Tiny Barbarian are generally fine, save for the heavy-handedness with some that steadily spawn without end. They combine with platforming and treasure collecting to keep you on your toes. Learning the quirks of each, and whether to engage or skip them is satisfying. The bosses are memorable, but incredibly busy. The encounters pack many ideas, where just a few were probably needed. I won’t spoil any, save to express my feedback that some restraint would be advantageous.
Inconsistency is one of the biggest issues with Tiny Barbarian. Checkpoints can help the difficulty not cross into frustration. But sometimes they are rather close together, while other times they are very far apart. There doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason behind these big fluctuations. Given that Tiny Barbarian is as linear a game as they come, this is even more regrettable, as it brings repetition to the fore.
Overall Tiny Barbarian DX starts running out of steam earlier than expected. Much of what it offers has already been seen, and some of the design choices were misguided. Glitches unique to this Switch port also do no favors. You can get better for $29.99. A patch and price reduction will help. Despite a fair amount of content and some positives, this one is for fans only.
Review: Tiny Barbarian DX (Nintendo Switch)
The game starts off quite fun, but the more we played it, the more numerous its shortcomings got exposed. The end result is a game that might land in your “on sale wish list”.