Rage of the Gladiator Review (WiiWare)
Posted by Jim Cook, Mar 18, 2010 02:26
Rage of the Gladiator is going to draw comparisons to Nintendo’s Punch-Out series, and rightly so; while the boxing ring and gloves have given way to a colosseum and warhammer, the core of the experience is very similar. Much like that boxing series, you’re put up against a variety of foes whose attack patterns must be learned, dodged, and countered in order to advance. It’s a basic game formula to be sure, dating back to the 80s... but when it’s done right, it’s still fun. Rage of the Gladiator does it mostly right, and at a fair price for $10/1000 Points via WiiWare.
Punch-Out fans would probably be well served by a quick summary: Rage of the Gladiator is basically the same thing, but both you and your enemies have access to fantasy-themed attacks (magic, etc.) and you’re able to upgrade your character after each fight you win. If you enjoyed the recent Wii release of Punch-Out, then you’ll probably like Rage of the Gladiator as well. But for those who missed out on that game, some more detail is called for.
The main premise is that you’re put in a series of fights against fantasy-themed enemies; some are humans who wield magic or exceptional skill with their weapon, others are monsters like minotaurs and Beholders (you know, the floating eyeball monsters from Dungeons & Dragons?), and they each have a specific array of attacks for you to learn and defend against. You have a few options; at the most basic you can dodge left, dodge right, jump, raise your shield, or swing your weapon at the right time to cut their attack off. Upgrades to your character will add a few more options, but this basic premise holds. Where things get interesting is that not all options work against all attacks, so you’ll have to learn to watch and listen for cues to tell you which move is coming up, and choose the right response. It sounds basic, and it is, but it’s still enjoyable.
Once you’ve dealt with your opponent’s attacks, you get to retaliate. Normally this is just a series of basic attacks with your hammer and shield, but you can also do a powerful combo attack in some cases and will gain access to new combos as you play. Thus the basic flow of any match consists of learning your opponent’s attacks, dealing with them, and getting in a few hits of your own before they try their next tactic. Dodge, attack, dodge, attack; this is the general flow until you or the enemy are defeated.
Rage of the Gladiator is pretty easy to pick up and play; a short tutorial is offered, and the game supports playing via Wiimote held sideways (NES style), or Wiimote plus Nunchuk, or adding the Motionplus to the latter. The quickest and most accurate controls seem to be the Wiimote, but there is some satisfaction in actually swinging your Wiimote as a weapon and while the Motionplus mode doesn’t make your attack motions a 1:1 match it does add a nice sense of immersion to things all the same. Strangely, the Classic Controller doesn’t seem to be supported, nor is there an option for left-handed controls on the Wiimote plus Nunchuk setup, choices that I think are genuine flaws in this title.
As previously mentioned, there is an upgrade system here. Clearly inspired by Diablo and World of Warcraft, you have several upgrade ’trees’, each with their own focus. They broadly cover attack power, defensive options, and energy generation (which you use to power your special combos), though combos with various effects are spread out between the trees. It’s a very interesting idea, and helps Rage of the Gladiator stand out as being more than just a clone of Punch-Out.
Those familiar with this kind of game won’t be surprised to learn Rage of the Gladiator is pretty short. Each enemy can be beaten in around three to five minutes on average and there aren’t that many of them, though beating the game once unlocks a Challenge mode where the gain new moves and become much harder. Still, this could also be said of Punch-Out, so this isn’t a crippling flaw.
More significant is a series of minor to moderate flaws in addition to the control issues above. For one, some fights are a little rough around the edges in giving the player cues on how to behave. One enemy uses audio cues before some attacks, but it’s very likely that those cues will be drowned out by other noises in the game and you could take an unfair hit that way. There are likewise a few other attacks where I’m still at a loss as to how you’re supposed to deal with them; no amount of dodging, shielding or counter-attacking seems to work in a few instances and I just had to write them off as automatic lost health. More annoying is that they actually wasted space (remember, WiiWare games have a forty megabyte limit) on plot cutscenes that add nothing to the game; surely they could have used this room to squeeze in one more enemy, or a few more combos?
Thankfully those flaws are the exception rather than the rule. Most fights play very well, and even the somewhat cheesy presentation does little to hurt your enjoyment. Is it worth your $10? I think so; if Punch-Out on the Wii can charge $50 and be a decent purchase, then a WiiWare release offering a fairly similar amount of content for 80% less cost is perfectly acceptable. Rage of the Gladiator is best enjoyed by fans of Punch-Out style game play, but if that describes you then by all means pick this up; it has its flaws, but the core of the experience is fine and these infrequent problems can be forgiven in light of its price.
Rating: 4.8, votes: 5