Reviews: Strider

(2014 game review) An action game with ninja Metroidvania trappings

Strider starts off with action right at the start. You arrive at your destination with no explanation at any kind, and immediately start tearing through enemies with your fast moving sword that swings in a wide arc. Only a tiny bit of exploration at first, then a boss fight - a large flying snake-like robot that you must climb and run along until you reach its head, which you whack away at. The snake robot crashes, and you find yourself in a city that's much more open. Which is when the true Metroidvania action begins.

Strider is a very fast-paced game, in contrast to a lot of Metroidvanias. The combat is super fast. Enemies typically can either shoot, or have very strong close-range attacks. Nearly all their attacks are telegraphed, making them easy to predict and easy to dodge once you learn what's going to happen and when. Good thing too, since this game is fast. Your enemies attack fast, and you move fast. Boss fights are frenetic and have you dodging a lot.

It's not just combat that's fast, but the pacing overall. While Metroidvanias are known for their exploration and "how do I get over there?" factor, this game doesn't really have that. Rather, your immediate next objective is pointed out on the game's mini-map with an arrow pointing in that direction. You never have to pause and check the game's map to figure out where to go next. Just head in the general direction of the arrow. You'll almost never get lost or stuck.

Which is not to say there isn't exploration and upgrades. There's plenty of both, from new special weapons to life upgrades and even new forms of movement, such as dashing in mid-air in any direction. Of course, there are areas that can only be reached with certain upgrades - and in a throwback to classic Metroid itself, there are different colored doors that can only be opened with certain weapons.

The presentation is simple straight-faced cheese. Cutscenes are brief and have simple dialog that in many cases doesn't involve your ninja character talking back. When he does, he sounds like the typical "stoic Japanese ninja with thick accented English" stereotype. All the voices are cheeseball stereotypes. I don't really understand the story - something about an oppressive regime, and some kind of technology used to oppress people or whatever, and your ninja needs to stop it because... I dunno. Nor do I care. The story is "there", and that's it.

Honestly, I don't know what else to add. The game is just fast and fun. There's hidden upgrades if you want to max out your life and special weapon power, boss fights that put up a real fight despite having easily learnable patterns, lots of fun, fast enemy encounters, plenty of optional exploration, enjoyable platforming and movement, and little to no risk of ever getting lost or stuck - at least for long. It's just a polished, fun game.