Strider is back and it is better than ever!
Rebooting or remaking an old game it is always very tricky. You need to make it modern and appealing to new players, but you should also keep that retro feeling many of the old players fell in love with. And somehow the guys over at Double Helix have managed that beautifully with the reboot of Strider.
Now I don’t recall much of the original Strider, I remember playing it and I remember bits of the first level. It started with you flying in using a cool looking glider and the first boss was some kind of a snake looking robot. Today’s Strider starts pretty much exactly the same, you fly in to Kazakh City in your badass glider, slash your way through the level and fight the first boss, the giant robot snake in a 2.5D sidecrolling fashion. You don’t really get much backstory as who are you, what is going on and why are in Kazakh City. You just slash your way through the city, killing countless soldiers, robots, mini bosses, bosses culminating in a fight against an Emperor Palpatine looking guy and even after completing the 5+ hour singleplayer, none of those questions are really answered.
But frankly I did not really care about getting those answers, I was really busy enjoying the fantastic gameplay. Strider plays so so good. The action is fast and really enjoyable, the traversing and exploring is really fun and the whole Metroidvania style approach makes it worth your while. You start the game with only two abilities, jump and the basic cypher attack/slash. But as you progress through the city and as you defeat bosses or explore secret areas, you gain new abilities such as charge attack, a slide attack, a ground-pound attack, double-jump and the cool dash ability. However these are not the only upgrades or new abilities you get in the game. You get 3 new types of cypher swords, each unique in both type of attacks and effects. But you also get three different main powers that are called Option A, B and C that can be used directly in combat or help traverse through the different parts of the big city.
Each and everyone of these abilities or upgrades, call them whatever you want, work in tandem with the Metroidvania style of exploration. Spread out in the city you will find blocked paths by different color coded doors and to open them you must slash it or do something with the same colored cypher. Or you will see high platforms that you can’t reach without the double-jump and the dash abilities. Or you might see vents you have to use slide attack to open or you’ll see ground-pound destroyable platforms that hide secret paths leading to cool collectibles and such. But you may also see yellow switches which you can turn on using the Robot Option or blue platforms you have to reach riding your Panther Option and so on. All of these things combined make the exploration very satisfying and rewarding. And the best part is that you will figure it out on your own pace, the game will not tell you where and when you can or can’t go, you just have to try it yourself.
The Metroidvania type style of exploration is only half of the fun, the other half being the combat. It’s just so fun and satisfying to slash countless soldiers, wreck giant gorilla looking mechs, deflect incoming bullets like a Jedi, leap into the air and come down smashing everything to small bits. Then engage into some of the most cool boss fights in recent memory as you can see one in the video I captured. Four different types of Cypher swords; a standard one that allows to deflect bullets; a fire one that sets enemies on fire or just explodes them if charged; a frost one that freezes the enemies into ice chunks that serve as cover, but also as platforms to jump from and to; and lastly a boomerang one which sends out boomerangs that sweep and cut through many enemies at once. Three different “magic powers” that allow you to summon: a badass blue panther that will wreck anyone in his path, a red flying bird that clears the skies from the annoying flying enemies and a yellow shield which deflects incoming projectiles and allow you to shoot explosive orbs. Or you can use the different types of Kunai to eliminate the threats from afar.
Yes, Strider is a blast to play! And fast I must add, aww yeah. Usually in side-scrollers or even games in general you can attack every second or so as you have to wait for the animation to complete and start over. Well, that is not the case in Strider. You can attack as fast as you can press the attack button, there is no delay, no input lag, just an insane amount of slashing. And that feels great especially when you just keep running while pressing the attack button as fast as humanly possible mowing down everything in your path without stopping. You feel like a total badass throughout the entire game, it doesn’t matter if you fight just one enemy or ten or twenty while the gravity is all messed up and all hell is breaking lose, Strider is a straight up badass and I am really glad I didn’t miss the opportunity to experience that insane level of action and destruction.
Helping in this frantic and insane action is the super steady frame rate. It didn’t matter what was happening on screen, the frame rate never stuttered and remember that I played it on a PS3 running on 30fps I believe. I could only imagine how fricking cool it must look on the PS4 or Xbox One running at a steady 60fps. The guys over at Double Helix are to be praised of what they achieved from a technical point keeping also in consideration how good it looks. The character models looks fantastic and their animations are extremely well done. Strider is a ninja and his animations as running, sliding and jumping look fantastic. Also dem laser scarf physics… The 2.5D environments look really good to with fantastic attention to details and incredible lighting. Kazakh City, a Neo Soviet Communist city, has many different looking environments that range from a mix of ornate Russian architecture to hard-edged futuristic high-rise buildings with sprawling energy cables and pipework. However more variety in the environments would have been nice and I wish it was just one big map and not broken down into levels separated by long loading screens. The music is also really good also, especially when it kicks in high gear during intense action sequences, it really pumps you into badass levels. The voice acting in the other hand is borderline terrible with fake rubbish accents and wannabe “badass-y” or “scary” voices. It would have been better if they went with text only.
Strider is an excellent example of how a true reboot/remake should look, feel and play. It is fast, it has a fantastic and insane action and the Metroidvania exploration is just fun. I don’t really like backtracking in games, but here I felt the urge to do it as I wanted to upgrade Strider to his full and find every piece of costume, collectible or secret. It is a short and relatively easy experience, but the inclusion of the challenge modes as Beacon Run or Survival will keep you hooked just for a little more. My advice: get it, you will not be disappointed!