Done Playing: Strider (Xbox One)
I finished Strider 2014 last week and overall it wasn’t great. As an homage to the arcade original I suppose that makes it a pretty accurate tribute because as much as I love that wacky old Strider it’s not much of a game. You run and jump wildly, hammering the attack button as everything explodes, you and your enemies alike. Peculiar characters come and go in a blur of flashes and there’s lots of deaths caused by wonky animations. Take away the coin slot and drag those traits out for a few hours and you’ve got Strider 2014.
As a tribute to Arcade Strider it hits every point you could list.
- Hangglider infiltration
- Constant shing-ing sword attacks
- Quasi-Neo-Soviet regime
- Grandmaster Meio
- Dipodal Saucers, robo-hawks and panthers
- A big mechanical gorilla
- Super awkward gravity changes
- The ‘Tong Pooh Three Sisters’ squad
- Cartwheel jumps and slide kicks
- Really annoying air skiff jumps
As a modern Metroidvania game it also ticks off the major checklist boxes.
- Big map screen that you uncover as you play
- New abilities guarded by bosses
- Bosses that are defeated with the last ability you unlocked
- Color-coded doors that require abilities to unlock
- Hidden collectibles
- Way fewer fast travel points than you’d like
- Loading screen hallways
- Upgradable health and skill meters
Combining both of those lists should result in an amazing game but in the end it’s neither a great Strider or Metroidvania game. It’s just ok and only recommended at a discount price. You’ll get just enough satisfaction from the Strider trappings by the time the frequent frustrations of actually playing the game set in. For a badass future ninja, Strider gets his ass outright stopped a lot. Being shot in the air will send you reeling to the ground, resetting the charge attack you need to deal with the frequent shield wielding enemies. Later upgrades let you bypass most enemies but then a lot of doors are locked until you kill everyone in sight anyways. This cycle alone probably added an hour to my playtime and breaks the pace at which you’d love to keep moving forward.
Boss fights are not only frustrating but boring and repetitive. I routinely died in order to figure out their patterns instead of being able to dodge or counter until I could see what was going on. Seeing what’s happening in a boss fight is made even more frustrating thanks to the subtitles that fill the lower third of the screen with big banners. These usually cover up Strider and all the lasers and shockwaves flying towards him. It is astoundingly poor design and if the accompanying voice acting was recorded to be ironically bad à la Bionic Commando ReArmed, it fails.
The best I can say is that the game does capture the Strider vibe… and that it isn’t very long. Sometimes a game being short is a great thing; it sets the stage and lets you play with its systems just long enough to keep you enthralled. Strider offers a few encounters that feel really strategic and fun but mindlessly wailing on the attack button is the order of the day. A few thousand button presses and a minimum of concentration is all it takes to blaze through in 4 or 5 hours. It’s all flashes, explosions and wonky mechanics and while that is Strider in a nutshell, this 2014 edition isn’t as memorable as either a Strider game or a Metroidvania game.