First Looks// Play Expo 2014: Wulver Blade and Wings! Remastered

Posted 24 Nov 2014 17:04 by
Play Expo is mostly a vast, playable museum of just about any retro game you could think to name. Mostly. But at the 2014 show a few new and upcoming games snuck their way in and Sausage Factory host Chris O'Regan took a bit of time out of getting misty-eyed to give some of them a try...

Wulver Blade by Fully Illustrated and Darkwind Media

The key to any good brawler game is how satisfying it is to create a series of combos that flatten opponents while providing sensory feedback to the player that encourages them to commit similar acts of destruction. Castle Crash and Foul Play had their own ways of completing this circle of destruction to sensory overload, and Wulver Blade does it by creating a sense of impact each blow the player inflicts upon the enemy.

Wulver Blade was being demonstrated at Play Expo 2015. I got to spend some time with it to experience for myself the weight of each strike as I killed multiple enemies by either smashing my shield into them or cleaving their skulls with my short sword.

Set in the 2nd century AD in Britain, the player takes on the role of Caradoc, a Celtic chieftain who has mobilised the tribes of Scotland against the 9th Roman Legion. They are determined the put an end to the Roman empire's march northward and Caradoc will stop at nothing to achieve his goal. This includes the frequent use of head-butting and throwing large heavy objects at the forces that make up the 9th Legion as well as a fair few bandits and other foes.

Wulver Blade is currently in pre-alpha so what I experienced was not even feature-complete. However, the developers appear to have focused a lot of their efforts on the timing of combat, with each hit needing to be timed in order to deliver the most powerful blow.

This timing makes for some very intense gameplay, as it requires some consideration of where the player is vs. the opponent and what they are going to do before reacting. Should they hit with a series of quick attacks and follow up with a heavy one while risking being on the receiving end of a parry? Or should they leap up and attempt an aerial attack followed by a heavy strike? Just like any good brawler, it's about how the player uses the tools they have available to them in the most effective manner possible. All while not dying themselves. Predictably I did not do well in the whole 'staying alive' aspect of Wulver Blade, for it is a terribly difficult game and punishes those who simply button mash. That's my tip for you when playing Wulver Blade: do not button-mash!

The one thing that struck me most about Wulver Blade was its artistic design. It looks like a moving cartoon strip with highly expressive character models, most of whom grimaced a lot. The animation is very smooth and detailed, even for its early stage of Wulver Blade's development.

I thoroughly enjoyed the brief time I had with Wulver Blade. The sense of impact each attack delivered was really impressive and provided the developers continue with this theme in Wulver Blade it should be one to watch out for in 2015. Wulver Blade is due to appear on Xbox One and Windows PCs next year.

Wings! Remastered Edition by Cinemaware

Back in the heady days of the late 1980's there was a publisher/developer who embraced the newly released 16 bit computers that were the Amiga and Atari ST by making games that were a visual delight. Thankfully the underlying gameplay of the games they made were just as impressive as the visuals, with Defender of the Crown being one of the most celebrated games Cinemaware made.

Wings! was a relatively late release for Cinemaware as it appeared in 1990, just as the 16 bit consoles were making their presence felt and thus competing against the established computers on an equal footing. Wings! was an arcade game at its heart, with a story wrapped around it to give the player a sense of progression. Two modes of play existed in the game, cockpit and third-person isometric view. The latter felt a little like a cross between Zaxxon and Barnstorming.

Wings! Remastered was created on the back of a successful Kickstarter campaign that started in 2012. It takes the original Amiga game and updates all of the visuals and sounds, making Wings! Remastered a more contemporary game.

I played this re-imagined version at Play Expo and found it brought back some very pleasant memories for me as I blew up German troops and planes while floating in the deep blue. The improved visuals are really impressive, with animation and explosive effects being the most obvious improvements. It supports joypad controls, so that is a significant improvement from the original, which only had the clunky joysticks of old that did little for the lot of the player as they tried to avoid flak.

This update is a welcome one, as it takes an already excellent game and makes it more relevant to the current audience as well as those who look back into the past with some affection. The whole experience is much smoother and faster than the original and Cinemaware have created this environment without compromising on the original.

Wings! Remastered is currently available on Windows PC and Mac and will be released on iOS and Android devices.

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