Game: Golden Force
Genre: Action, Platformer
System: Nintendo Switch (also PC, PS4 and Xbox)
Developer|Publisher: Storybird Games| No Gravity Games
Age Rating: EU 7+ | US Mature
Price: US $19.99| UK £17.99 | EU €19,99
Release Date: January 28th, 2021
Review code provided with many thanks to No Gravity Games
Back to Work
The holiday is over for the Golden Force who needs to head out on a mission to get some more money and avoid their biggest threat, bankruptcy. Plus next-gen consoles aren’t cheap guys! What better way to make a big score than head over to Muscle Island. No, it’s not a place to lift weights and improve your abs, much to my disappointment. It’s an island full of dangers, giant bosses but a lot of hidden gold as well. If you like pixel style graphics and challenging 2D hack and slash gameplay, Golden Force is a game worth looking into. Also, it has a co-op which always piques my interest.
You get to play as one of three heroes as you move from level to level on a mysterious island battling various enemies, collecting gold and finding lots of little secrets in the process. The characters are quite varied with two sword fighters, a gargoyle-like fella and an old man with metal arms, the latter of which was easily my favourite of the crew. We need more awesome old people in video games! It’s also likely I’m going to need metal arms when I’m old after playing all these video games.
Platforming and Combat
The gameplay is a mix of platforming and hack and slash combat. The controls are easy to pick up but a little hard to memorize, to begin with. You have your typical jump and attack button but the game also makes use of a dash move and holding down the attack button for a more deadly strike. This will also project items and enemies into the air which hit switches to open doors. This was often a bit finicky as you can only shoot projectiles horizontally or diagonally. So often it took me a few attempts to solve these puzzles.
The combat is fun but its hard to sometimes determine when you will be hit by an enemy. Usually, when you’re mashing the attack button your character seems temporarily invulnerable to damage. But it only takes a single hit to throw this all off. Losing health would not be such a bad thing if it wasn’t so hard to recover. The game uses hearts instead of a health meter. Whereas the enemies get health bars, which feels totally fair. When you start the game you can only take 5 hits before being sent back to the nearest checkpoint and, trust me, you will lose health very quickly in this game.
Tough and Grindy
Golden Force makes its difficulty level clear by starting the game with a giant boss battle. It’s been quite some time since I played the first level of a game and died multiple times. The game requires you to consistently learn from your mistakes. The difficulty feels a little too harsh. Health drops are rare and enemies have a little too much health making combat feel quite grindy. But it’s not just the enemies, the boss fights have enormous health bars and they go on for a long time throwing all sorts of projectiles and things to avoid while you occasionally need to remember to hit them. Let’s just say my thumbs got pretty sore playing this game constantly mashing the attack button. I might need those metal arms earlier than expected.
As always with difficult designs. I feel the developers are absolutely allowed to design the game the way they want but this game feels like it would have been more appealing to a wider audience if it had additional difficulty settings and accessibility options.
By exploring levels you can find hidden coins and shells which can be used to upgrade your health points and abilities. The gold you collect can also be exchanged for temporary items like attack buffs and invincibility however their use is only temporary so if you decide to use these on a boss fight and you fail, you lose them permanently, meaning you have to grind gold by playing old levels again to get them.
The game also has co-op. Before you begin a level another player can jump in to assist you in the action. This does come with a few issues though. If the second player wanders off the screen which is likely to happen a lot, particularly on platforming sections, a small circle appears to the side of the screen showing where the second player is on the level. This is far too small to determine what’s around the second player making it far too easy for them to fail at the platforming segments. Just making the game split-screen probably would have helped with this issue. If you move too far away from each other the second player will just transport to the primary player in a bubble. If a player dies they are out of the game until the other player finds a checkpoint.
We also found a bug where if one player dies and you complete a level they don’t return when you enter the next level. They are still dead. The only way to revive your fallen pal is to quit to the map and restart the level. Co-op is a nice addition but the game feels better suited to solo play.
You are Golden
If you like your 2D hack and slash games with challenging gameplay Golden Force is well worth picking up. But if you’re picking this up for co-op I’d say be careful. Also, additional difficulty settings and less gold grinding to get new items would have made this experience more accessible for a wider audience.
That being said, Golden Force does have that retro old school feel of pattern recognition that will appeal to some gamers. Plus it has the coolest old man character I’ve played as in a video game in recent memory. Nice work.
Final Verdict: I like it