Tiny Barbarian DX is a game in which you can flex your muscles to defeat enemies. Sold on it already? No…? Oh, okay then, read on.
It’s the age old story. Knuckle-headed barbarian gets defeated in an epic battle. Knuckle-headed barbarian escapes from his bindings thanks to an eager vulture. Knuckle-headed barbarian heads out to get revenge. And of course, along the way he’ll rescue a voluptuous blonde beauty and crack plenty of skulls. It’s a simple premise but it gets the job done, just like our titular tiny barbarian. And what’s better is that it’s a hell of a lot of fun.
An adventure split over four episodes, Tiny Barbarian DX is a tough as nails platform game that will at times make you rage, but always keep you going back for more thanks to its lenient checkpoint system. While it’s available on PC as well, Switch owners also get the benefit of being able to leave their console suspended to chill for a while should they get stuck on a particularly nasty part.
Each level is made up of a number of small areas, and while most of them require you to do nothing more than run, jump, swing your sword and climb, there is the odd occasion where things are mixed up a little. You might find yourself on the back of a beast, for example, running through a level at a breakneck pace, or even on an ever-ascending platform, doing your utmost to avoid a cavalcade of enemies and traps. It makes for an exciting adventure that is full of thrills and spills, and it’s even more enthralling when you’re facing off against one of the many greatly designed bosses.
The bosses of Tiny Barbarian DX are the kind that will make you turn the air blue until you’ve truly memorised their attack patterns. Each and every one of them provides a challenge that will push you to your very limits, testing more than just your ability to whack them with your sword. You’ll need to repel projectiles and platform your little heart out, but while you’ll likely die many times in the process, you just know with determination and patience you’ll overcome anything that’s thrown at you. And when you do, you’ll be elated.
The tiny barbarian has a few moves in his repertoire to help you dispatch foes and also maybe the odd weak brick in the environment, uncovering valuable treasure or health-restoring meat. Pressing the attack button along with a direction on the analogue stick performs numerous three-hit combos, while in the air you can either slash with your sword or plummet to the ground with a stern elbow. Oh, and let’s not forget the tiny barbarian’s flexing skills. While they may seem like they’re just for show, they can also be used to stop certain enemies and projectiles in their path.
Thankfully, the controls are crisp and responsive, making the times you need to perform pixel-perfect jumps less stressful than it could have been. Having to press up to grab onto ledges and vines etc. is something that feels very unintuitive though, and has led to many unfortunate falls. You often need to maintain your forward momentum right until the last minute, so transitioning from pressing left or right to up becomes something that has to be perfectly timed. In the heat of the moment, that can be very tricky and needlessly frustrating.
Aside from that one piddly control issue though, Tiny Barbarian DX is pretty much a delight to play, even when you’re struggling on a particularly fiendish level. It’s got a wonderful chiptune soundtrack that always has you tapping your feet to the beat, and its pixelated visuals are home to a great deal of charm. The tiny barbarian himself is the star of the show though; his fantastic animation really brings him to life.
While it will depend largely on skill, expect each of Tiny Barbarian DX‘s four episodes to eat about an hour and a half of your time on your first playthrough. After that, you can then play through them again to attain a higher score, or speedrun them. There’s also the option to play the game in couch co-op, which adds another layer of fun and/or challenge depending on who you’re playing with. For the RRP of £26.99 /$29.99 it perhaps doesn’t sound like a great deal, and for many players it won’t be. But those who do return to episodes to discover all their secrets and have fun with a friend by their side will get their money’s worth.
In any case, Tiny Barbarian DX is much bigger than I ever expected, and a joy to play from beginning to end. It’s a fantastic throwback to the days of 2D platformers in which character was just as important as a sky high difficulty curve. You’ll die, die and then die again, but you’ll only ever lose a minute or so of progress, keeping you going back for more. Full of epic boss fights, colourful environments and challenging scenarios, Switch owners need look no further than Tiny Barbarian DX to fulfil their old-school platforming needs.