Barbarian Onslaught is a flash browser that makes use of simplistic mechanics and controls in order to deliver a very enjoyable game experience. It is easy to love the game for its simplicity, you fight enemies with powerful sword-strikes, kicks, grabs, throws, environmental objects, and even unleash a super move –all with the press of the single attack button. But there is also great room for mastery, despite the one-button configuration for attacking, actions are not context sensitive, you must tap or hold down the button (and at times, accompany it with directional commands) in order to unleash your devastating moves. It is a game that truly makes you feel like a mighty barbarian.
A Good Gaming Formula
The best old-school arcade games had a very specific approach when it came to creating a game system. It did not matter what the gameplay was like or what the genre was, it needed to fit two basic criteria. And Barbarian Onslaught manages to achieve both.
First, it had to be very easy to learn. Players have to get it right on the very first token, and this meant that controls (and basic play mechanics) had to be very intuitive and easy to memorize. The less time players spend learning how to play the game, the more time they get to enjoy it.
The second important thing about arcade style games was that it had to be difficult to master. Yes, the first stipulation requires a game to be easily accessible, but it also needed to provide a substantial challenge. Each stage would be progressively harder than the last –hard enough to challenge a player, but not too hard as to become an insurmountable wall. Of course, all bets are off by the time the final stage rolls around –at this point, the game literally throws everything at the player, who is, by nature of reaching the final stage, has enough mastery of the gameplay to face the challenge.
Thunderbolts and Lightning
The game makes players fight various enemies in a variety of situations –encounters don't feel repetitive as you have to deal with a myriad of stage layout configurations as well as enemy formations. Each skirmish is also a puzzle –do you jump over the melee attacks to kill the archers first or do you fall back and force the enemies to advance towards you? Each time you fight, you have to make a conscious decision on how to most efficient kill the enemies while taking the least amount of damage. Simply put, just spamming the attack button is not enough.
This nuanced combat system is further enhanced by the game's attempts at dramatic delivery. Visually, the art style is crude and hardly anything impressive, but once you see these roughly drawn characters start moving about and fighting, things start looking differently.
Combat animation in Barbarian Onslaught is surprisingly top notch, credit of which goes to Johan Hjarpe who ended up producing two games in the series. You get to see a variety of slashes being used and some resulting in critically powerful blows. Enemies raise their shields in defense when you hammer down on them in a flurry of slashes. Time your heavy attack at the right time and you can potentially decapitate your next target. Battles are fun to watch thanks to the way the game is presented. The backgrounds are also given exceptional attention to –we particularly love the way the dark clouds in the horizon are often punctuated by flashes of lightning.
Top it off with a great fitting soundtrack (that old school metal feel) and the resulting play experience is not only entertaining, it becomes downright captivating and enjoyable. This is especially true if barbarian-themed fights are your kind of thing.
Precision is a Gaming Virtue
Being a real time hack n slash game, fights in Barbarian Onslaught are very dynamic, but there's still a general order and pace to the way each wave of enemies converge in each scene making the game one of the best jack n slash titles found on fighting game portals like Whack It and Newgrounds. While reflexes and adaptability are going to be your core advantages, memorization also comes into play as mastery of stage layouts helps you get into better positions and get the right timing. It is an old and long forgotten way to be good at gaming that has seen lesser value as more rogue-like and procedurally generated maps are becoming more common for casual titles.