At first glance, Wonder Blade looks like fun. On the surface, its charming art style and well animated, overly expressive characters combine with bright and eye-catching attacks, make it look like there is lots of fun to be had playing Wonder Blade. In truth, there isn’t. Much of the appeal is skin deep, and it is ultimately betrayed by simple and repetitive gameplay that doesn’t do anything new with a genre that is fairly well worn.
Wonder Blade is a simple enough side-scrolling adventure game, developed by Puppet Depot Game Studio. You play as a powerful fighter on a quest to rescue a princess (what else), who has whisked away during the games opening moments. Without missing a beat, our unnamed warrior gives chase, and the game begins after a brief albeit uncomplicated tutorial.
Some may find that is enough – Wonder Blade is easy to pick up and play and offers a thin veneer of depth in that it allows you to unlock weapons and pets as you progress. Pets can be purchased using coins and gems you collect as you defeat enemies, but Wonder Blade’s weapon system is a strange one, in that you unlock new weapons as they are dropped by fallen enemies. This happens randomly, so you could be full throttle in the middle of a battle, when a nice shiny sword might suddenly appear where was once the body of some fallen goblin. Is it better than the sword you currently have equipped? The only way to tell is to walk up to it so that its stats appear on screen – a simple system in theory, but putting it in to practice can be a lesson in annoyance, especially when things are pretty hectic on screen. Luckily the weapons that are dropped hang around for a while should you want to clear the area before picking it up, but what further adds to the frustration is that there is no way to compare the new weapon to your currently equipped one. The only way I could see to do this was to equip both, comparing one to the other as they fall on the floor. Maybe I missed something, but this all felt a bit silly, especially in the heat of battle.
Once you have equipped a weapon it stays permanently unlocked for you to select from the main menu, but here lies another problem – a lot of the upgrades available can only be activated from the main menu. This means quitting your game before starting it up again to see what desired effect your new gear or ability has, which all seems like too much effort in this day and age. If you decide you don’t like something, you have to then quit out to change your loadout before starting the game up again and let’s be honest – isn’t that too much of a faff when we are so used to pausing the game and changing our loadout on the fly?
Wonder Blade contains all the usual systems you would expect from an action-adventure game, even if they are the lite version. A basic skill tree allows you to upgrade your abilities and spells, such as increasing the damage you do with fire or how much gold enemies drop. These are unlocked with points acquired through levelling up, alongside skill points that can upgrade your base abilities focused on attack and defence, magic, and critical chance. Again, nothing overly new or game-changing, but there to use should you need them – which you will. As you have to quit out of the game to access these menus, I only discovered them having quit the game one night and returning the next day. Ironically, had there been better access to these menus in-game, I might not have quit as easy the day before.
The art style is really Wonder Blade’s biggest selling point. NPC’s ooze character, but beyond this, there is nothing really much to say. If you enjoy simple, button-mashing side scroller with a facade of RPG elements, then, Wonder Blade might be something you would enjoy, and to be fair the longer I spent with it the better I understood its appeal. Wonder Blade is something that can be picked up and enjoyed in short bursts, hacking down enemies until the difficulty curve ramps up, at which point you need to quit to the main menu and upgrade your character before you can begin the cycle again. In this day and age of convenience, Wonder Blade’s systems work against it, but if you can see beyond that there is fun to be found, you just have to work to find it.
Wonder Blade PS4 Review
Overall - Not Bad - 5/10
On paper, Wonder Blade’s combination of simple action and RPG elements make it sound like a winner, but the end result somehow misses the mark.
- Bold and visually appealing art style makes it feel like playing a cartoon
- Racking up big attack combos is both satisfying and addictive
- Amusing bonus rounds in between levels that pay homage to a well known fighting franchise
- Repetitive gameplay – whack this, smash that
- Upgrade menus are cumbersome to get to, and make upgrading a pain
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Reviewed using PS4 Slim.