Tiny Barbarian DX is a 2D platformer built on the foundation of “difficulty for the sake of it”. It borders on being a rage-game, so there is no way for me to be fully objective in the review. I originally played a bit of the game when it came out on Switch. Nicalis sent me a review code, and I hated it. I couldn’t walk into this game without an unbiased mind-set, no matter how hard I tried, but I wanted to lay every card on the table before reviewing this properly. What do I think of Tiny Barbarian DX? Well, let’s get into that.
Tiny Barbarian allows you to run, jump, grab onto ledges, and ride specific animals. You can swing your sword in different directions and do a sort of, diving drop move. As a platformer, the movement feels fine enough. Combat, while it doesn’t feel terrible, it certainly feels off to me. Levels are long and grueling, and traversing them can be either kinda fun or meh depending on how much stuff the level is throwing at you. That’s the big issue of Tiny Barbarian DX to me, I never had fun, but I was never enraged either. I felt bored, like the game was wasting my time and like my attempts at beating it were useless. Tiny Barbarian also has boss fights which usually provide a decent challenge, and have easily readable patterns, but they still require a bit of skill to dodge.
Levels try to be “well designed” but usually end up flopping on a few basic principles. You get introduced to a singular trap or enemy in a safe environment, which should make things easy to learn. However, in practice they progressively make those things harder to deal with. You go from, “You shouldn’t take a hit of damage” to, “We’re going to kill you cheaply and without any chance of survival”. The Barbarian has a health bar, which is fairly large and usually it gives you enough hits, however, the levels love bottomless pits. There are many places where the game wants you to climb on vines or jump across the sky, but the issue is that when you take a hit, you go flying until you hit the bottom of the screen; there’s no chance of saving yourself.
Tiny Barbarian DX feels like it wants to be Castlevania, except it throws a no-ranged Arthur from the game Ghosts ‘N Ghouls into a Castlevania designed game and says, “Done.” The levels don’t feel designed around the character and there are many instances where I found getting hit entirely unavoidable. It stopped me from having fun outside of the boss-fights, and it kinda sucks since I’m a fan of most of the rage-games that this game takes inspiration from.
Tiny Barbarian DX’s presentation is actually really good! Sprites and animation are fluid and easy on the eyes, only sometimes do they blend in a bit too much. This creates scenarios where you see things you shouldn’t or don’t see dangers right in front of you. Sound design is brilliant; the music is great, and sound effects are crunchy. Everything feels satisfying and happy, sort of like Super Meatboy’s music though, for me, Meatboy’s music propels your determination, Tiny Barbarian’s doesn’t do that at all for me.
Tiny Barbarian DX’s length entirely relies on the skill of the player. It has 4 levels for you to attempt, but I didn’t bother beating it. Tiny Barbarian DX failed as a rage-game, and never allowed me to enjoy it the way I would Castlevania, Super Meatboy, or Mega Man. I felt as I’ve said earlier, like I was wasting my time. So, I decided to put that time into other things. Rage-games are hard to rate since everyone has their own tastes, so I recommend you look into I Wanna Be The Guy or Super Meatboy instead. Tiny Barbarian DX as a rage-game makes me say to myself, “I’m not mad, just disappointed.” I can’t call Tiny Barbarian DX a terrible game, but the seal is entirely dependent on if I had fun with a game. I had fun a total of three times in seven hours of gameplay.
A Switch review copy was provided by the publisher.
supiroguy didn’t award Tiny Barbarian DX The Indie Gamer Team Seal of Approval.