By Michael Fontanini / February 19th, 2021
|Developer||No Gravity Games|
|Publisher||No Gravity Games|
|Release Date||January 28th, 2021|
|Genre||Action, Adventure, Arcade, Platformer|
|Platform||Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation 4|
|Age Rating||ESRB: M for Mature (17+)|
Muscle Island has fallen to the King of Demons, its population now persecuted under the iron fists of his loyal generals. Golden Force follows a group of four mercenaries who find themselves with a new contract. Their mission is simple, destroy the king’s tyranny and restore peace to the paradise islands of the archipelago.
Each time you start up the game, you can select any of the four mercenaries to play as (Gutz, Spina, Drago, and Elder). There are also several skins to choose from for each. As for attacks, Gutz slashes his foes with a sword, and Elder punches, for example. While the mercenaries’ moves are a little different, they play largely the same, regardless. The character select screen also allows a buddy to join in with you. You also have a dash move that can be used vertically or horizontally. If you jump and then dash upward, it’s essentially a fancy double jump with the dash visual effect for the second jump.
If you’ve played platformers from the 16-bit era, you’ll be familiar with the general gameplay. Run, jump, and fight your way through each level, collecting coins and special collectibles. The special collectibles (large coins and shells) are used on the shop ship to buy upgrades. One of the upgrades permanently adds one HP, which isn’t very consequential. The other most important upgrade is the combo scroll. This permanently adds another attack to the end of your grounded combo. The other six power-ups in the shop are bought using regular coins. Most of these are the game’s regular power-up items, which you will also encounter in stages anyway once in a while. You probably won’t get them from the shop too often when they cost 1500-4500 coins a pop, depending on the item! They’re mostly not that useful anyway. However, the Super Potion (gives invincibility) and the Auto Heal item might get you out of a pinch, as it heals you fully if your HP reaches 0. So it’s essentially like a fairy in The Legend of Zelda series, and its sprite looks rather like a fairy in a jar.
The world of Golden Force is a handful of different islands that make up an archipelago, each of which has 4 stages. If you can do well enough, you can unlock a bonus level in each world. Each stage has four special collectibles to find (three large coins and one shell). Some of these are very difficult to find. This game is on the hardcore side for sure. In fact, the tutorial level immediately throws you into a tough boss fight. Even if you’re a moderately skilled player, it will probably annoy you a bit, as it is quite easy to fall in the sea and die. Bosses are very formidable foes with tons of HP in this game, so be ready for that and learn their attack patterns.
Once you succeed in felling the giant purple menace, you’ll gain access to the world map, including the first island and the shop ship. You’ll quickly notice that the game has a combo counter. If you go too long without felling another foe, it will reset to 0. You get ranked at the end of each level in several categories, one of which is your max combo count. Play the level repeatedly and improve your performance to fill the green bar to the right. You’ll get rewards like a pile of bonus coins for reaching the marked thresholds.
The gameplay is fairly simple as you can see, a mix of platforming and hack-and-slash. This is also where it runs into some significant problems as well. You’ll find that even though you have 5 HP from the start of the game, you’ll die easily. Even the weakest enemies take multiple hits to take down, and some are much more formidable than others. There are also battles where waves of enemies spawn one after another, which can be tricky affairs. There is a brutal one shortly after the start of a level on the second island. Making matters worse, enemies will sometimes spawn right on top of you in battles, causing unfair damage. When you die, you’ll go back to the last checkpoint you reached, or the start of the entire level. Golden Force also occasionally runs into some frame rate issues, something you don’t usually expect in a 2D game like this. One other flaw is some decidedly poor level design featuring unfair deaths. In the screenshot below, you have to blindly walk off of the ledge on the upper left and air-dash to the right in the middle of a blind fall to survive as the screen scrolls down. You can’t see what’s coming, so you are pretty much guaranteed to fall in the death pit the first time you get here. This is not unlike something you might expect to see in Mario Maker. This is in one of the first levels in the game, too.
Golden Force has a great, upbeat soundtrack fitting the fast-paced action, and is certainly full of 16-bit era nostalgia. The sound effects are also well done, giving some significant oomph to actions like landing on the ground and slashing your foes.
Golden Force attempts to relive the retro gameplay of yesteryear but, in some ways, falls on its own sword due to a number of issues. It is marketed as “Old school difficulty (but not so frustrating).” This ends up not being quite so true because of the aforementioned gameplay and technical issues, which range from instances of poor level design to noticeable frame rate issues. If you are not hardcore, then I can’t recommend this game due to the punishing gameplay. If you’re interested, I’d say this is probably one to grab when on sale unless you’re sure you’ll enjoy it. Some of the special collectibles are very hard to find, and between that and improving your performance on each stage, it will keep you busy for a long while. It’s certainly not the best retro-inspired title out there, as there are certainly a number of others that play better than this one. Golden Force is available on the Nintendo Switch eShop for $19.99, as well as on Xbox One and PlayStation 4. It is also coming to Steam sometime in Q1 2021.
Review copy provided by publisher.
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