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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Strider.

TranscriptEdit

And now, an insight into the thought processes of your favourite videogame critic: "Pies, pies, pies. Magners Apple Cider. Masturbation. Play videogame."

But which videogame? I've still got one more week to fill before all the big, interesting releases kick in, and I'm running out of strings to my slow-release-period bow. Oh Christ, I might have to actually review a game, rather than pretend to and then use the space to talk condescendingly at Nintendo for five minutes, or review one from three years ago, and that everyone besides me already knew was good. I shall have to think on this. (Masturbation, pies, pies)

So what is actually new this week? Well, there's Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze, but I can see where that would go straight away; it's too soon since Nintendo's last go on my spanking saddle, which I find just stops being fun after it starts drawing blood. Well, there's always Strider, the remake of the classic Capcom arcade platformer, by Double Helix, the Silent Hill: Homecoming people. Ho, ho! A long-unsullied pair of virgin cheeks to redden! (Pies, masturbation, cider, I wonder what bra size Brian Cox would wear if he was a woman.)

Apparently, the now defunct Grin, of retarded Bionic Commando reboot fame, were working on a Strider remake for a while, but thankfully they cancelled that before they could add a plot twist where Strider's sword is actually his Mum, or something. I wonder if any of their version made it into this version, 'cos it does remind me in several ways of Grin's less retarded Bionic Commando remake, Bionic Commando: Rearmed. The music and the visuals feel somewhat Bionic Commando-reminiscent, although it could just be because they're both remakes of classic platformers in which you find a thinly-disguised version of an evil European bionic-commando regime.

You are a Strider, basically a ninja but less colour-coordinated, and you used to steal apples from farms when you were a kid, and one day a farmer caught you as you were running away and yelled "Here, you!". And so you decided to name yourself "Strider Hiryu" — well, that was awful, but what do you want, there is so little plot to work with at the outset — the game starts, you're flown into enemy territory, and you start chopping things in half before you've figured out what the Jump button is. These days, being light on exposition can either mean a really deep and well-crafted story or one that's like the fabric in a wet T-shirt contest — thin, and not what we're all here to look at anyway. Strider is in the latter category, if that's not obvious by the time Emperor Palpatine shows up and gives you one last chance to join his Quest To Rule The Universe; not exactly complex villainy afoot. But it's the gameplay that carries it; Strider Hiryu moves with a rather girly, excitable run rather than a stride, counterintuitively, and he can slash his sword as fast as you can mash the button, being a master of the less sophisticated Featherduster school of kendo, but it gets the job done.

Combat is rather appealingly organic; it just sets up a few rules and away you go, running about like you were a severe germophobe trying to minimise contact with the ground, rapidly slashing in all directions. And meanwhile, the enemy are all firing bullets that can't seem to motivate themselves this early in the morning, so crawl along the air giving you time to dodge or slash them away, which I like. It's combat that really makes the most of the 2D space and the wide range of high speed movement, marred a tiny bit by slightly fiddly climbing controls, so in the heat of things Hiryu might glue himself to the ceiling or wall to show everyone his dartboard impression.

Strider is a Metroidvania game; you can tell, because you keep finding brightly coloured doors you can't go in yet. Shadow Complex is a pretty clear influence; you pick up more abilities the more of the map you unlock, and the combat starts getting cluttered like a teenager's bedroom floor. I think because the combat starts out as perfectly elegant — you jump around a lot and you make the sharp bit of your sword go into the soft bits of everything else, the instruction manual could probably be kept under two hundred pages — some abilities feel like cupholders and digital clocks bolted onto something that doesn't need them, like a kangaroo or a bag of crisps. There's the power to summon a giant red ghost bird-thing that sweeps through the enemy, but the route it takes is kinda difficult to predict, and half the time it only gave the enemies centre-partings. And later from the same stable, you get a blue ghost panther that runs across the floor nibbling every bum in its way, but it doesn't seem to deal much damage. And in both cases, I found it far more expedient to just run up to the target and hack his thighs into luncheon meat, and let the Ghost Menagerie stay in Hiryu's ninja underpants.

As Metroidvania goes, it's definitely more Metroid than -vania; it does the Metroid thing where your weapon acquires four different elemental attacks that all open new doors, which I always think is a bit of a cop-out. Your double-jump and your teleport dash make new areas accessible organically, which is good, but a locked door that only opens when attacked the right way is just a wee bit contrived:

"Master, I've completed the design for base security; these doors only open when you hit them with the Flaming Sword!"
"But no one in my army uses flaming swords."
"That's what makes it secure!"

And while the Flame-y Sword and the Icy Sword have their own benefits, the fourth kind of sword — I think it was the "Blackcurrent Jam" sword — is basically just a door-opener and occasional shield-remover. Yes, it fires projectiles, but it's slow, and here's the thing: you're a ninja, you ninny! Your body is a missile, and your willy is the fin! Just jump at the bad guy and hack his shins into Spam fritters! Having said that, the kunai ability is a projectile attack with an actual use, and that use is to turn the game into a sodding bullet hell shooter, especially when you're throwing six of the things at once; you must have a fanny pack on you the size of a walrus. And the Exploding Kunais, Fucking Hell! "Thanks for playing most of the game, now for Easy Mode'!" Boss fights became absolute chumps, even the final one. "Hey, want to use these launch rings to get up close to the boss and slash him about?" "I'm good, thanks, game. (Fling, fling, fling)"

But now I nitpick. It's a little bloated and clumsy like a bridesmaid on rollerskates, but the answer to the eternal question is "Yes, Strider's fun." The combat escalates well as the game proceeds, and most of the upgrades smoothly add new elements to it that are easy to adapt into one's fighting style, phantom zoo animals notwithstanding. It's always a good sign when by the end, you're actively seeking out difficult fights because the last time you cleared a room with minimal hits using a combination of slashes, Kunais and generic ninja flipouts, you felt like your bollocks sprouted pins and turned into little grenades (if male; otherwise your clitoris extended six feet and flew the American flag).

So I wouldn't say it brings much new to the table, but it did bring a lovely pie. And everyone's had pies, but we can still appreciate a pie that's well put-together as pies go. (Pies, pies, masturbation, Brian Cox.)

AddendaEdit

  • He's got long legs: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
  • I felt a bit bad about spamming kunais all the time 'cos I wouldn't want people to say I was kunai-ving.
  • Bullet Hell is where Max Payne goes when he dies.

ScreenshotsEdit

Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart · The Surge · Injustice 2 · Vanquish · E3 2017 · Strafe
Q3 Get Even · Hollow Knight / Dead Cells · Fifth Console Generation · The End is Nigh, and Yonder: Cloud Catcher Chronicles · Pyre · Splatoon 2 · Hellblade · Agents of Mayhem · Sonic Mania · Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle · Destiny 2 · Metroid: Samus Returns
Q4 Knack 2 and SteamWorld Dig 2 · Cuphead · Hob and A Hat in Time · Middle-earth: Shadow of War · The Evil Within 2 · Super Mario Odyssey · Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus · Assassin's Creed Origins · Sonic Forces · Star Wars Battlefront II

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