Bardbarian Review (iOS)
Barbarians were known for their ruthlessness and brute strength in battle, but did you know they were also known for their tasty riffs and ability to shred? In Bardbarian, BulkyPix’s latest offering to the App Store, you’re charged with protecting a village rather than destroying one. You don’t do it by clobbering your foes with axes and hammers. No, you use the power of music to save them!
As you might have surmised from the game’s title, you play a bard in Bardbarian. Well, to be more accurate, you play a barbarian who decides to trade in his weapons in order to take up shredding on a different kind of axe; in this case, a musical one. It just so happens the day he makes this important, life-changing decision, his village is attacked by a bevy of orcs and other baddies. With axe in hand, he uses the power of song to inspire his fellow townspeople to rise up against the invaders.
The premise of Bardbarian is fairly simple, and therein lies the fun. All of the action takes place in the village and your main goal is to protect its crystal. Waves of enemies will stream in from the forest to the right, so it’s your job to have Brad round up townspeople to defend their homes. Brad can call upon archers, healers, brawlers, dwarves, storm knights and other kinds of units.
These guys can provide ranged damage, melee/projectile damage and healing for Brad and his party. The right combination of units can help you plow enemies en masse with ease, so pay careful attention to your party makeup with relation to the enemies on the field at any given time.
Your party’s makeup matters a lot because spellcasters and ranged damage dealers will flank Brad while tough melee units will act as tanks and lead the party. Different classes have different aggro ranges, so you’ll either have to move Brad in very close to have units like Brawlers activate their attacks or kite enemies at a distance so that Archers can loose their arrows. As the game gets more difficult, more enemies appear onscreen at the same time, so you’ll have to be very judicious about your movements to make sure you’re inflicting optimum damage while also avoiding enemy projectiles.
Gathering units expends Notes, which Brad generates by jamming out when he’s standing still. You merely need to tap on a portrait of a unit to spend Notes and have Brad play a sick solo to summon them from their homes. Once you’ve gathered your units and are ready to defend the town, killing baddies is as easy as dragging Brad around and getting his party within range of the enemies. They’ll fire off their shots, destroy enemies and continue following Brad around.
Dragging Brad and his party around is an easy enough task on paper, but you’ll need deft fingers to keep everyone out of harm’s way. The party starts out spread away from each other, which means there’s a greater chance of members getting hit by an errant enemy projectile. Coins can be spent for the “Bodyspray” upgrade, which keeps party members closer together so they form a tight group.
Fallen enemies drop gold coins, which can then be used in the Item Shop. You’ll be able to purchase upgrades for Brad’s buffs, increase the size of his party, hire different units and even make upgrades to the town. One of my favorite town upgrades is the Town Drunk, a fellow who sloshes around and vomits on the ground every now and then. Enemies who move past his miniature swamp of bile are slowed down, allowing Brad and the gang to finish them off. Who knew puke could be so useful?
The game can be very difficult, but it is also very fun and rewarding. You’ll have to tackle stages over and over to amass enough gold to upgrade everything to a level that gives you a fighting chance against bosses, but that’s part of Bardbarian’s fun.
Bardbarian’s action is made all the more enjoyable thanks to the hand-drawn, cartoony graphics. The style is reminiscent of the multiplayer game, Castle Crashers, and adds the right amount of goofiness to the proceedings. You’ll also find yourself bobbing your head along to the epic guitar solos and songs played by Brad. Bardbarian’s soundtrack is also excellent and is provided by a band called Maximum Satan. Their name totally fits in with how over-the-top metal vibe of Bardbarian. If Bardbarian were a metal show, this is the point in which we’d throw up our horns.
If there is one thing that really holds Bardbarian back from being a truly perfect iOS game, it’s the fact that it’s so challenging. While the difficulty may be fun for fans of the genre and people like me who just generally enjoy a challenge, it kind of hampers the story a bit and may cause other gamers to lose interest.
When a game like this has so many options for upgrades and customization, a rocking soundtrack, fun character designs and addictive gameplay, the difficulty just makes it so that victory is that much more rewarding. That’s something we can happily bang our heads to