Twin Blades: The Reaping Vanguard ReviewRevenge of the Meat!
Every so often I take a break from matching gems in Bejeweled, Gyromancer and the like to set out in the wilderness of the Xbox Live Indie section to find some valuable hidden gems. Since my first adventure into this unexplored territory was such a success, (See Breath of Death VII), I plunked down another $2.50 to test drive the gory shoot-'n-slash combat of Twin Blades: The Reaping Vanguard. As much as I love the modern perks of Xbox Live titles, if more Indie games were this good, I could continue to overlook the absence of standard Live features.
Twin Blades stars Sister Angelika, a Christian nun in a small European village that becomes overrun with the undead. Her mission is simple: kill every zombie in each area on the way to learn why the dead walk the earth and how to put a stop to it. Every aspect of the game has a beautiful vector art based appeal that makes the movement of every character smooth and graceful. Every swish of the scythe and gruesome splat of zombie guts is distinct and crystal clear, even if the small-scale musical score fades a bit into the background. I'm proud to say that there is not a prettier presentation on the Xbox Live Indie platform than Twin Blades.
Sure, smacking down a sea of zombies might seem fairly straightforward (because it is!), but the combat mechanics are Twin Blades' biggest pull: Angelika is equipped with a huge scythe for devastating melee attacks and a versatile gun that fires a wide range of ammo. Killing zombies with the scythe replenishes her limited ammunition meter, so if you want to slaughter the undead from a distance, you will need to get up close and personal to rebuild your stock of bullets. This combo of blasting the vile freaks with flamethrowers, freeze rays and lasers and cleaving them to chunky bits varies the levels to the point where powering through 99 undead is less of a chore and more of a strategic action-filled adventure.
While battling through masses of flesh-hungry zombies starts off somewhat easy, the difficulty ramps up at a steady pace with new enemy types and stronger undead. I thought I had the hang of Twin Blades up until I ran into the first boss- Boy, was I in for a shock! At first, these tough guys can seem overpowered, but once you master the controls and the timing of their repetitive actions, it might only take you 30 tries to defeat each of them. No part of Twin Blades feels "cheap," as you'll begrudgingly admit that if you were less crap, the Zombie Butcher wouldn't have chopped you into a series of kielbasas.
Press Start Studio pulled together an amazingly slick art style, challenging gameplay and a strategic combat hook to form a title that you would expect to find in a full-priced Xbox Live Arcade game. (Take note that Twin Blades is also available for a myriad of other platforms!) If PSS quadrupled the game's length and tacked on a few additional features such as multiplayer or collectables, they could have a full-disc game that may bud into a thriving franchise. Sure, it's not the perfect Indie game, but if a game this entertaining and full of depth can come from a team of five people, it gives me hope that even grander Indie games are coming around the bend.
-Arnold B. Carreiro
Developed by Press Start Studio
Published by Microsoft Game Studios, Xbox Live Indie Games, Apple, Sony, etc.
ESRB: M for Mature
The Arnold B. Carreiro Rating System
A - Awesome! Why haven't you bought this yet? Go! GameStop doensn't close for another 2 hours!
B - Great game! It'll be something fun to play for a good while. It's better than most games, but shy of perfection for some reason. You should check it out!
C - Meh. It's not a BAD game, nor is it good. Enjoyment may be limited to a certain audience though. Perhaps some aspects of the title are great while others are bogged down by bad design/gameplay/etc.
D - Not too great... Too much of the game lacks polish to be appreciated to the general gaming public, but there might be enough here for someone to enjoy. Maybe...
F - A complete train wreck. Vampire Rain is the last "F" game I've ever played. The bargain bin is too good for an "F" game.