REVIEWS -- X-Blades -- PC
It’s games like this that give chauvinism a bad name
by Sebastian Stefanov
Fun factor: Boring
Worth to: Avoid
You can give your heroine a dental floss thong, and have every protruding part of her anatomy jiggle, but in the end it’s still crap
Hack ‘n Slash games are meant to relax the player with simple, fast, mindless action. They are the junk food equivalent of video games. You can’t eat fillet mignon every day; occasionally we want a greasy whopper. X-Blades doesn’t fall into that category, though it has all the markings of “junk”. What we get is grease and two large buns without the patty. Gameplay is non-existent, controls are unrefined and levels are nothing more than large arenas, which make the whole experience about as fun as watching something cute and cuddly get run over by a car. Simply put: X-Blades sucks.
Why isn’t the main character naked?
No, seriously, why isn’t she? She wears the smallest thong ever consumed by a pair of cheeks, jiggles like her bra is merely “painted” on and we see her from the most perverse angles, so it’s only fair that we ask. Removing some needless “textures” would have saved on valuable processing power… Besides, the game’s official wallpapers clearly have the heroine posing topless, so why tease us with strings when we know developers have uncensored material lying around somewhere.
To say the game is designed with male interests in mind in an understatement. The protagonist is the personification of every male dream. She’s blonde, flaky, bountiful, endowed, jiggly, has awesome tats (that’s TATS), wears the coolest pumps and has not one or two, but three pony tails! All she needs are glow-sticks (her swords are shiny so close enough). Even the name is insinuating: “X”-Blades. If we ever see two more sequels I wonder what the third installment will be called…
The game is single-handedly setting us back ten years in terms of video game chauvinism, but I digress. The sad part: there’s more to say about the character’s look than gameplay.
Having watched the first two cutscenes I was expecting a title with the gameplay refinement of Dead or Alive -- the stiff, unresponsive kind with needless animation and little-to-no depth but with enough basics to make it a bearable experience. X-Blades first impressions are deviously misleading. The game has smooth controls. The main character, whose name eludes me for some reason, runs around slashing various monsters with her two swords. Action is surprisingly responsive, which doesn’t say much because it’s also surprisingly bad. I honestly felt like turning the game off every time I mustered enough willpower to play this shameless attempt to squeeze out sales through sex.
In a nutshell, you fight annoying bosses while being swarmed by annoying enemies. When you don’t fight bosses you’re simply swarmed by annoying enemies. Players are dumped in a pit and monsters appear out of nowhere and keep respawning until they are all dead. Apparently your blonde bombshell is a treasure hunter, but you wouldn’t know it by playing the insanely unoriginal and uninspired solo missions because there is absolutely no treasure hunting anywhere. There’s a lot of button mashing, and a lot of running around half-naked, even an occasional pickup while you run around half-naked, but no treasure hunting whatsoever. And even if the game would have “attempted” to give us some exploration (because it doesn’t), there isn’t enough gameplay depth to do anything beyond pressing a single button. The character has no moves besides basic slashing, a whimsical dash-forward, a few spells and pistol shots.
Gun action is too weak to be effective against anything but the peskiest of enemies and magic acts as nothing more than a reprieve from the drudgery of slashing waves of identical enemies in each level. Using swords refills a magic meter, so gameplay pretty much unfolds as follows: slash, slash, slash, magic, rinse and repeat to insanity.
SouthPeak mentality: the smaller the thong, the bigger the sales
Levels are large square pits. Monsters appear out of thin air. They are bad. You have to kill them. While you kill them you sometimes break a pot. Sometimes you break a vase. On occasion you stumble upon a piece of artifact. The artifacts are carefully hidden behind rocks. Sometimes they are hidden in plain view on a cobblestone platform. There are also doors. The doors don’t open. You have to kill all the monsters in each level to open them. Entering the door ends the level. In sum, very… ex… ci… ting.
Gameplay is so shallow and levels are so flat and pointless each stage could have taken place on a giant gym matt with no walls and the outcome would have been the same: me ripping my hair out for having to endure this crap. On a few occasions TopWare (or Gaijin -- seems nobody wants to take full blame for this wreck) has players interacting with levels. In such cases we can look forward to being locked in a room with retracting spikes or running through empty corridors with large guillotines.
In the room with spikes I was expecting some sort of puzzle or switch to press in order to escape. Stupid me; all you have to do is… NOTHING! You wait for five minutes, occasionally healing (you can buy heals and spells with soul-credits), until a cutscene puts an end to the misery that is TopWare and Gaijin’s combined creative prowess. The spiky room locks you up and sends waves of floor spikes from one end to the other. The spikes speed up with each pass. Then the spikes start to wave from the opposite direction, also speeding up. Then the entire floor gets spiky with a single safe patch. The patch moves. You have to move into the safe patch. The speed increases. Then once that cycle is over, guess what? It starts all over again! Yippee!
Don’t mind the bad gameplay; your character’s derriere is a statement on its own: Lara Croft, here I come! Sorry, I actually wish that was the case. No, the true statement is an obviously crass attempt to swindle horny teen males into getting the game. Your main character even insinuatingly bends forward when she runs. The thong is but a bull’s eye. Nice, TopWare/Gaijin, nice. Too bad your levels aren’t as inviting as your sexbomb.
Ok, onto the plot…
The heroine finds an artifact, and despite the warnings of its guardian that touching the object will unleash doom and darkness upon her, and that he will have to kill her if she defies him, the blonde still touches it, and gets her hand all sticky (insert blonde joke here). “Ah-yah… as if, like, I’m gonna listen to some tiger-looking thang”, she probably wondered. “I’m pretty, and boys like me because of my perfectly pear-shaped body and my three pony tails. I can do anything”, she justified. So with her spoiled high school brat mentality the dumb blonde does as she pleases, and all the teenage boys are like “Rock on, babe! Kill those thangs, kill!! Oh, run babe, run!!!” Cue in heavy metal music, and you get X-Blades.
But before you wonder if watching a hot anime babe is worth the uninspired game design, know that the X-Blades is also loaded with insanely frustrating gameplay. Your character can lock onto enemies to make them easier to nail (no pun intended), but there’s one little problem: the lock-on system is completely out of the player’s control -- it’s as crappy as the rest of the game. Ayumi (fine, she has a name) locks on to whomever your camera is facing. And since the cameraman has the attention span of what the developers hope is the target audience, players end up aiming at targets that aren’t in front them, like enemies behind walls, ruins… or mountains. In fact, Ayumi prefers to target anything out of her reach. This makes fighting bosses a living hell since all levels are peppered with respawning enemies.
As you off enemies Ayumi fills up a magic meter that lets her pull off some rather impressive moves. Too bad levels are so insipid they turn fighting into a chore. Players can literally start stages and accumulate the required body count to move on without moving from the character’s starting position! Just load into a level, wait, and as soon as you are surrounded start pounding the attack button, occasionally unleashing an earthquake spell. In the process players can string pointless combos.
The responsive controls are only skin deep (who would have thought). For some reason Ayumi sometimes fails to double-jump and destructible objects occasionally don’t want to break, no matter how close and how much you swing at them. An acrobatic move can be performed by pressing forward twice and jump, but even that seems random. The move is required to pass a guillotine hallway so get ready to die countless times trying to execute this elementary skill. Your character will also jump for no apparent reason near rocks and walls.
In the end Ayumi is always swarmed by annoying enemies, she always runs around in boring levels, and she always bends over to compensate for the horrible gameplay mechanics (so you can imagine how much bending over she must do). The only redeeming quality in this mess is the music. The game features some nice heavy and techno tunes and a cool main menu song. The rest is forgettable.
Avoid. Don’t justify this suck. If you do, I’ll find you…
Publisher: SouthPeak Interactive
Developer: Gaijin Entertainment / TopWare
Release Date: February 10, 2009
Review Date: 25-02-2009
Numbers of Players: 1
Players Online: No
Uninspired levels. Ayumi looks great but levels could have easily been replaced with a large gym matt and the experience would have been the same.
Read above… The game also suffers from a horrible lock on system, bad camera and annoying enemies. No goals, you just fight until enemies stop respawning.
Nice cutscenes, however few, but calling the heroine a “treasure hunter” only exposes the fact that this game has no depth whatsoever.
Nice music. Techno and Heavy Metal feels out of place in the bad fantasy settings. Lack of sound effects because of pathetic level details.
A few extras and upgrades might entice some to play more than a few hours, but if you last until the end, you need to get a life.