Review: X-Blades (360)
Hack and slasher.
Another one. Yep.
When you first boot up this game you are shown a nice little cutscene which introduces the heroine of the game, however bizarrely this cutscene forgoes any kind of dialogue in favour of sporadic erotic heavy breathing and grunts. Following on from this you are unceremoniously dumped into the first level without any sign of a professional front end menu or title screen. As an opening to a game it’s certainly an odd one and leaves you kind of wondering what the game is trying to achieve.
X-Blades is a third person hack and slash ’em up with anime stylings and sees you trawling through a dungeon killing waves of enemies to unlock the room your in before allowing you to progress to the next room. This all sounds well and good and as a simple premise to hang a game to it is ok. But the problem with Xblades is that it’s anything but an engaging game.
Games like Conan have shown how you don’t need mega budgets to create brilliant games in this genre and can stand tall with the massive hits like Devil May Cry and Ninja Gaiden. And I don’t think it’s unfair to compare X-Blades directly to these games as it has to be able to stand on shelf space next to them, and you can’t just ignore that these other better games exist.
X-Blades uses three main attacks, being your sword, your guns and your magic. However each attacks seems to be limited in some way, your sword attacks uses only one button and this removes the need for any real skill, as all you need to do to create a combo is hammer one button. The guns feel vastly underpowered with none of the physicality or visual feedback of the ones found within Devil May Cry. Finally the magic attacks are poorly implemented and show no spark of individuality. Fire spell? Yes sir, and how about an Ice spell too? Oh and don’t forget a light form and a dark form. The implementation of the magic system is also extremely un-user friendly as you gain rage points whenever you attack with your sword, which are used to fill up a gauge to cast your magic. However stop attacking and the gauge drops. While in itself this seems like a good idea, the balancing of charging to casting seems a bit off and it leaves you wondering whether or not it’s just easier to kill all the enemies with your sword and forget the magic.
Unfortunately you can’t just rely on using your sword attack on all enemies, as the game seems to arbitrarily decide that certain enemies and most bosses can’t be damaged using just your normal sword attack. So this leaves you with you gun attack but given that this feels so underpowered you are left with no alternative but to rely on the slightly flawed magic attacks. That is of course if you can find and follow your target, as the camera and lack of a decent lock on conspire to make it near impossible to selectively chose who you want to attack. Far too often in this game you will find yourself fighting enemies off screen or looking in the wrong direction. But this may be no bad thing as broadly speaking the enemies on offer are bland and uninspired with the main idea seeming to be that if the game throws enough of them at you at once you won’t notice how they all look identical. The bosses do slightly buck this tend and there has clearly been more time spent on the creation of the two main adversaries, but when it comes to battling these bosses you realise they are just damage sponges who prefer repeated pummelling rather than any kind of identifiable tactics.
Being a man of many tastes (the least of which not being games with provocative box art and equally saucy special editions) I can say that the humble hackumslashum is one of the simple pleasures in life, X-Blades for the most part delivers on this. Each level is not much different from the other, most are very simplistic arena type affairs in which a bar at the lower corner of the screen tells you for how much longer enemies will be spawing in until â€œlevel completeâ€, with a few levels free of enemies and only having you dodging booby traps (no pun intended). This may sound kinda lazy (uninspired levels, waves of enemies etc) but it was by no means bothersome to me, knowing fine well wheat you’re getting in for really gives you no reason to complain.
What did bother me about the game was three fold. The awful awful boss fights, so bad that I was actually praying for a QTE to help me end them sooner. The fact that once you traverse the levels on the island you then go back through them again (but now at a different time of day) with slightly different enemies there. And most annoying of all â€“ the flying enemies. For a game that boasts shooting, slashing, magic and aerial combat the aerial combat is pretty much non existent. Flying enemies swoop down as much as they please to damage you mid combo and things are normally too frantic on ground to start shooting or lunging fireballs at these flying gits. Take away those guys and the game is quite playable.
Magic was an enjoyable addition, which was easily mapped to four quick buttons on the pad but as the levels went on more an more enemies could only be put down with a certain type of attack (magic or otherwise). This meant constant reshuffling of your selected spells.
In short X-Blades could have been a simplistically fun game if a little (and I mean tiny) bit more effort was put in, by no means a chore to play but there was little desire to soldier on. If you’re after some hack and slash action and cheap titillation I suggest any of the scrolling hackumslashums already reviewed on this siteâ€¦ and a porn subscription.
Secondary Score: 5/10
This genre of game lives or dies on the combat, and unfortunately the combat in X-Blades is a shambolic mind numbing and repetitive mess. You have a very limited repertoire of moves at your disposal and the control scheme struggles to cope with the actions you are called to do. There is none of the nuanced dodging or blocking found in most other games of this genre and in fact this game doesn’t even have a block button. This lack of a block button seems to have been remedied by the way in which you are able to buy extra health at any stage by simply pausing the game which removes any real sense of risk or challenge from this game. You need to have clear visual feedback in combat games, as you need to be able to judge when to dodge and when to block, unfortunately this game offers none of this.
Outside of combat the controls are also poorly judged with double jumping feeling a little woolly. The decision to put a forward roll on a double forward tap of the analogue stick plus a button press is a very confusing, as this makes the move very unintuitive and practically redundant. There are further failings with the normal movement in this game which include some dodgy collision detection and your basic movement being just a little too fast and erratic to control confidently.
The Visuals in games can help to make the title stand out from the crowd and become instantly identifiable from screen shots. Unfortunately the art style and graphics in this game deserve particular mention for being so misjudged and confusing. The game should be applauded for using bright colours, as so many games nowadays rely on gunmetal greys, however the colours here seem to be chosen at almost random with no consideration over how they will interact between each other. Every battle you face in this game will degrade into a mess of reds and oranges, and leave you wondering where your avatar is and who you are hitting. Strangely though for a game which uses such bright colours in its combat the environments in the game are uniformly bland, full of browns and greys. The poor visuals on offer here also extend to the appalling voice acting and on screen text which clearly hasn’t been optimised for high definition screens appearing as it does far too small for you to comfortably read when you are in menus.
So after playing X-Blades I’m still kind of wondering what the game it is trying to be. X-Blades is hampered by a series of badly judged decision from poor control schemes through to confusing art direction. Add to this the fact the combat in this game is highly repetitive and fundamentally not enjoyable and there is very little to actually recommend here.