Strider – As We Play

Up to a few years ago, Double Helix Games were not a studio that elicited much expectation. With recent stinkers like G.I Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters and Battleship to their credit, it’s not hard to see why.

So when it was announced they would be bringing two beloved franchises back from the dead, you can imagine the public reaction.

Fortunately, Killer Instinct turned out to be much better than expected. And Strider? It just so happens to be one of the better releases Capcom have put out in quite some time.

Double Helix have done a commendable job bringing the classic side-scroller back to our screens. The game works well, plays well and looks good. And the first few levels of the game are rife with unbridled energy and enthusiasm. Strider fans of yesteryear will cheer and shout as the game they used to know and love finds itself back in the spotlight and is back in a big way.

This isn’t the same Double Helix who chucked out a few ports that lacked any conviction and were built on minimalist work ethic. This is the work of enthusiastic fans that want to see the best possible return of a forgotten hero.

So it’s unfortunate that the game starts to fatigue and wear itself out mid-way on.

Strider doesn’t do anything wrong. The platforming keeps to the same standard, the story continues to develop and you gradually earn power-up after power-up that slightly changes the pace of the game. It never stops being engaging, but the repetition does dampen that initial burst of enthusiasm you’ll find during the game’s opening moments. Pretty soon, you’re just going through the motions, not really knowing precisely what it is you’re looking for, nor particularly caring how you get there.

Still, the foundations upon which the game is built are relatively tight, and variations on playstyles – such as bullet-deflecting, double-jumping and slide-kicking – mean Strider isn’t just walking through wades of enemies mashing the Square button. Enemies will always offer something different, whether they’re targetting you down their sights with rifles or holding up shields that you’ll need to hack through with a charged attack. You’ll always need some form of strategy, especially when you take on the bigger, more fearsome beasts that will pound your health bars into nothing.

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Then there are the boss battles which offer varying levels of difficulty. Bosses don’t just have a couple of different attacks. They have multiple ways to bring you down and serve up some stiff competition, just like the side-scrollers of old. The entertaining banter exchanges and vibrant flashed on-screen give the whole scenario a different feel to the hack’n’slashing you’ve been subjected to as a build-up.

In that regard, Double Helix have almost nailed the difficulty perfectly. Strider never really gives you a chance to be overpowerful with the newest addition to your arsenal. By the time you’ve picked up a new power-up, the enemies will have quickly upped their game and any new trick you have up your sleeve will have instantly been countered. Instead, you’ll be the one forced to play catch-up rather than them having to learn something different about you. The game just feels as if its always going uphill and refuses to stop for breath, which is to its detriment. Admittedly, this is more of a pacing issue than a specific problem with the difficulty curve, but despite the obvious comparison to Shadow Complex, that was a game which paced itself much better, whereas Strider falls just short of that.

To it’s credit, you’ll always feel like any mistakes made are ones you’ve managed yourself. Whether you haven’t utilized an attack properly or you’re not timing your approach correctly. Rarely did I find it an issue with the game as opposed to my own failings as a player and that felt refreshing. Strider feels very polished and complete throughout.

On the Playstation 4 build, however, I did encounter some technical problems, mostly during the boss battles. On several occasions, Strider completely disappeared from my screen. I fought the first boss and could see the screen jigging up and down in response to Strider being on the back of an over-sized robo-worm, but all I could see was his red cape, ebbing and flowing. No character model and no boss. Surprisingly, the game eventually corrected itself after I reached a certain point of the fight and I was able to finish the battle without too much trouble.

Another unusual occurrence was a camera issue. During the fourth boss battle, the camera locked in a certain position when I had the enemy down to 1/3 health and despite being able to move some of the screen with the right stick, the game zoomed in and continued to focus on that area with no room for budging. This happened several times and caused a few deaths as I couldn’t fully see my enemy, and kept falling off the edge of the screen. Again, the game did eventually manage to correct itself, but the issue repeated itself several times.

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Fortunately, that was it. The build is pretty iron-clad and the game looks a nice fit on Playstation 4. The backgrounds are always busy and deep and environments vary up enough so wherever you are, it’ll always seem fresh. As for the soundtrack, its bloody masterful, particularly during boss fights and in the collection of items.

And for Playstation 4 owners, the Remote Play function, in particular, is a delight and fits the game like a glove.

Areas for Development

  • Fixing camera-lock issues on boss 4
  • Fix disappearing Strider glitch

Final Analysis

For the most part, Strider works well. It’s an entertaining hack’n’slash skirmish and one of a few that can be found on next-gen platforms. The game is also incredibly lengthy in size and you’ll get a ton of content for the £11.99 price tag with a lengthy campaign, multiple difficulties, lots of trophies and additional modes. Unfortunately, fatigue eventually sets in and once it does, the game never really gets back the momentum it builds during the full-to-bursting opening moments. Unfortunately, no amount of South Wind or Pooh jokes – teehee – can fix that.

 (These grades assess our playthrough, taking into consideration how many (if any) bugs were encountered, whether there were any interruptions in gameplay and the product’s final technical state. These scores, coupled with the Final Analysis and Areas for Development, are suggestions for future patches and updates which the developers could (and in our opinion, should) explore. These scores are separate to our DLC/Expansion Reviews but link into our Patch/Firmware Reviews.)

(These scores are not designed as a grading system to determine the entertainment value of a product and should not be treated as such..)

Technical Competency – 9/10

Graphical State/Sound Quality – 9/10

Network Stability – N/A

Overall – 9/10

About the author

Ray Willmott

Ray is the founder and editor of Expansive. He is also a former Community Manager for Steel Media, and has written for a variety of gaming websites over the years. His work can be seen on Pocket Gamer, PG.biz, Gfinity, and the Red Bull Gaming Column. He has also written for VG247, Videogamer, GamesTM, PLAY, and MyM Magazine,