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Golden Axe: Beast Rider Review

Golden Axe: Beast Rider pack shot
Developer:Secret Level
Platform:Xbox 360
Official Site:http://www.sega.co.uk/goldenaxe/uk/index.html
Release Date:October 17th, 2008 (UK)
Reviewer:Andy Hemphill (Bandit)
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When I think back to the heady days of the Sega Megadrive, two games come to mind, two games that hooked me back then, and still reside in a happy place in my mind to this day: Jungle Strike and Golden Axe.

Jungle Strike was a helicopter shoot-em-up which was a non-stop battle against the enemy and you’re constantly draining fuel supply. But Golden Axe? Golden Axe was a gaming diamond mine, offering gamers a decent story, great graphics (for the time), endless replayability and, most importantly, co-op play.

It’s simple side scrolling levels were filled with all manner of enemies and beasts that you could ride, and after every level you’d get a chance to refill your health and magic stores by kicking little green and blue gnomes repeatedly in the face- classic.

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So, imagine my surprise when Sega announced a remake of the classic, in full on shiny-boxed Xbox 360 format- I was happy. But now that I have it on my desk, I’m not happy.

Sega have dropped the ball, as the American’s would say- after months in development, they’ve produced a half-baked mess that is no less than a reminder of why the past should always be left in the past.

So, let’s get straight to it.

First up, unlike in the original, Beast Rider only has one playable character- the fiery Amazon warrior Tyris Flare, who is still wearing the skimpy costume and carrying the long sword that stood her so well in the 90s.

The other two characters- Gilius Thunderhead, the dwarf, and Ax Battler, the barbarian, only show up in cutscenes, and then, only briefly. The question of why the developers decided to cut the game into thirds still rings through my mind.

The story is built along the same lines as the original game: Bad guy ‘Death Adder’ has killed and maimed his way across the land and eventually raids and destroys Tyris’ home. So then she has to traipse around the land looking for a way to reunite the two halves of the Golden Axe in order to destroy Death Adder etc etc, you get the idea.

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What this amounts to is a long and drawn out series of levels which require an increasingly less-clad Tyris to hack through armies of Death Adder’s ‘Bogeymen’ while occasionally riding some beasts and opening doors, smashing crates and generally causing a mess.

To make matters worse, the game is lacking one feature that made the original so great- co-op play. Nowhere is the option to enlist a friend to take on the hordes of Death Adder’s ‘bogeymen,’ there’s not even a split screen mode. This was a fatal error, reducing what could have been a lot of fun, to the base level of yet another hack-and-slasher.

And it’s not even a hack-and-slasher that’s easy to control. First off, Tyris is incredibly stiff, and she only has two attacks- heavy and fast.

Combining the two attacks results in some flashy combos but that’s about it. Also, rather than having one simple defence button, she has two- a parry and a dodge, and they only work against certain attacks- colour coded blue and orange.

So, if I’m facing a Bogeyman who swings at me with an orange attack, one press of L1 gets me to dodge so I can keep fighting. Likewise, blue can be parried by R1. While this sounds simple enough, the fact that there are so many enemies trying to kill you at once renders the whole thing pointless- so many colours are coming at you that all you can do is button-bash your way to freedom, and that gets boring really quickly.

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Tyris also has some fire-based magic, which is difficult to aim, not very powerful and runs out far too quickly, and she also carries the Golden Axe, which is of no use whatsoever in combat and is only there to open doors- great.

In fact, the only thing the game has got going for it is the actual title of the product- beast riding. In the original, beasts were powerful animals that everybody fought over and could wipe out whole screens in a second. In this one, they’ve gone all soft.

A few familiar faces are evident- the one that can breath fire and the one with a club for a tail, and there’s a few new arrivals- one which can turn invisible and one which is built like a tank- but they all suffer from the same problems: bad handling, weak attacks and low HP, plus, the annoying way that you get knocked off your mount with one blow is sadly still in evidence. What’s worse is that the second you get knocked off, and Tyris is rolling around trying (and failing) to get up, an enemy will nick your beast (as in the last game) and all of a sudden it becomes a lethal, practically unstoppable killing machine- that’s not fair.

Even more irritating is that the beast’s special attacks drain its health- forcing you to use it conservatively or face a long walk back. On the plus side, however, the Gnomes make a return now and then, and the little chase sequence is still as much fun as ever- they even bought the same music as used in the 90’s Golden Axe back for when they appear- a nice touch.

While the graphics are reasonable and levels of gore massive, the palate used by the developers is mostly grey and brown, and all of it wasted on a linear route through each level, offering no choice or decision making whatsoever.


All in all, Golden Axe is a poorly implemented, lacklustre effort to cash in on gamers’ happy, rose tinted memories of one of the great games of the 90s.

Don’t fall for the trap.

The bottom line
4.0 / 10

Good stuff

  • The beasts are fun, until you’re knocked off
  • Relentless, thumb-bashing action
  • You get to kick the Gnomes in 3D this time

Not so good stuff

  • No co-op
  • One character
  • Linear design
  • Weak beasts

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