There’s no shortage of outstanding indie games on the Nintendo Switch right now, and it’s far too easy to let an indie gem slip through the cracks. One outstanding indie you can’t let pass by is Tiny Barbarian DX. Tiny Barbarian combines fast action platforming with an unforgettable look and a killer soundtrack to create one of my favorite Nintendo Switch experiences. This pixelated side-scrolling adventure definitely deserves your time.
Starting off with a bang
The introduction to Tiny Barbarian DX is one of the coolest beginning moments I’ve seen in a video game. The camera pans up to the top of a mountain, where your Tiny Barbarian awaits. Suddenly, endless hordes of monsters begin scaling the mountain and attacking, and your job is to fend them off as long as you can. The waves get tougher the longer you survive, and once you finally die, the title theme kicks in and you’re brought to the start screen.
There’s basically nothing in the way of story in Tiny Barbarian DX, but this introduction set the stage for what felt like a tale of redemption for our tiny hero. The title screen theme is one of the catchiest tunes I’ve heard in recent memory — a real ear worm that’s stuck in my head even now.
Your Barbarian doesn’t have loads of combat options, as this game is fairly simple in the fighting department. Swinging the sword comes at just the tap of a button, and you can pull off a chain combo by tapping it three times in a row.
There are a few more options in the air, such as swinging the sword in a full 360-degree motion, or performing an elbow drop straight to the ground, which is helpful for breaking some platforms and damaging enemies.
Movement is very simple and fluid. The Tiny Barbarian can run, jump and climb up walls one square high. A lot of times I found myself taking the high route by climbing on dangling vines to avoid the chaos that was below me.
Tiny Barbarian, giant challenge
Throughout my adventures in the four full worlds Tiny Barbarian has to offer I was met with some pretty intense difficulty spikes. Spears, birds, snakes and swords can come from any direction, and it felt impossible to avoid damage at some parts of the game. Luckily, the game doesn’t operate on a lives system, and checkpoints come along frequently enough that I never got overly frustrated when I had to backtrack.
That being said, difficulty is something I thoroughly enjoy in a platformer. 1001 Spikes, also published by Nicalis, is one of the most brutal games I’ve ever played, and there are definitely similar feeling moments of difficulty in Tiny Barbarian DX. It feels incredibly satisfying to escape a situation where there are enemies everywhere you look.
The boss battles are also a good challenge. The first boss in the game requires you to disable a turret while half a dozen soldiers are in your way. The variety seen throughout the game’s worlds is grand, and I never got tired of romping through the levels and boss fights.
To go along with the great level design, the backdrops are also beautiful. Whether it’s a giant moon overlooking the world, or enormous chains foreshadowing what is to come, the backgrounds are always eye-catching.
The ultimate way to play Tiny Barbarian DX is with another friend at your side. It’s a blast to take on every level with a second player, and the sideways Joy-Con control option makes it easy enough to get a friend in on the action.
There are a few minor bugs with co-op though — one time, for instance, when my friend and I started a new level, we discovered the second player had disappeared. It was easy enough for him to reenter the game, but I’m still looking forward to these minor issues getting fixed in the future.
Wrapping it up
Nicalis continues to publish quality games on the Nintendo Switch. Tiny Barbarian DX has already been on PC for quite some time now, but it feels right at home on Nintendo’s portable machine. Tiny Barbarian DX is just pure fun, with challenging levels, the catchiest retro soundtrack since Shovel Knight and enough variety to keep you going back for more. And the fact that there’s a co-op mode so a second Tiny Barbarian can join in on the action provides more than enough reason to consider adding the game to any collection.
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System: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: October 10, 2017
Categories: Action, Adventure, Platformer, Multiplayer
Publisher: Nicalis, Inc.
Developer: StarQuail Games