If I wrote this review based on my initial experience of Tiny Barbarian DX, it would be filled with nothing but the word “squeeeeeee”. The game nails so many little details right from the get-go. Everything—the pixel art, the chiptune music, even the 2.133 aspect ratio—is evocative of those old Conan stories, which served as inspiration for the game. That makes a powerful and compelling first impression, so much so that my first half-hour with it was spent running, jumping, and slashing up enemies with glee.
The luster fades a bit as you progress, though, due to the high level of difficulty. Tiny Barbarian DX is not a brutally hard game, but it’s tough enough that I uttered more than one colorful invective while playing. Thankfully, failure isn’t punished too severely. The game’s levels are composed of several short sections, and dying simply sends you back to the beginning of whichever of those you happened to be on. As a result, you’ll never lose more than a few minutes worth of time. The exception to this is if you quit. Only the first checkpoint of a level is saved to disk, so if you have to walk away from the game for some reason, you could end up having to redo significant chunks of gameplay.
But that’s really the worst thing you can say about Tiny Barbarian DX. Everything else is pure joy, mixed with my occasional swearing. Your little barbar moves with an uncanny smoothness that gives life to his tiny, pixelated form. The controls are simple—arrows plus Z and X, or the controller—and the platforming is quick and responsive. With a bit of practice, it’s quite easy to get into a groove of run, jump, mantle, attack, run, etc. without having to stop and think.
That flowiness helps suck you in, and is bolstered by the game’s aesthetic. The pixel art is detailed enough to be evocative of the subject matter, but also abstract enough to engage the imagination. That can be said of the chiptune music as well and, in combination, they made the game as immersive as any high-fidelity, high production value title I’ve ever played. Add in some entertaining set-pieces, such as a protracted elevator ride in which you must dodge spikes while fighting, and I found myself so engaged in the experience that I didn’t want it to end.
Conclusion—Is It Worth The Money?
Sadly, it did have to end, as all things must, and in a surprisingly short amount of time: just over an hour for Episode 1 on my first time through. That’s right, I said, “Episode 1.” Tiny Barbarian DX is an episodic game. Your $10 purchase nets you the entire set, but only the first one is available, while the second is nearing release. That’s the only thing holding me back from wholeheartedly recommending you run out to buy this game. I loved what it has to offer and have every bit of confidence that the finished series will be worth the money, but I can understand if you decided to wait and see.
- Time Played—2 Hours 30 Minutes
- Widescreen Support—Yes
- Resolution Played—1280×600
- Windowed Mode—Yes
- FOV Slider—Not Applicable
- 5.1 Audio Support—No
- Bugs/Crashes Encountered—None
- Control Scheme—Keyboard, Xbox 360 Controller
- System Specs—Core firstname.lastname@example.orgGHz, 8GB RAM, Radeon HD 6770M 512MB
- Game Acquisition Method—Review Copy
- Availability—Official Site
- Demo—No, but the original Tiny Barbarian is available for free download
- Saved Game Location—