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Cybarian: The Time Travelling Warrior review for PS Vita, PS4, Xbox One, Switch


Platform: PS Vita
Also on: PC, Switch, PS4, Xbox One
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
Developer: GrabTheGames/Ritual Games
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: E10+

I’ll say this for Cybarian: The Time Travelling Warrior: whereas most retro games get their source material all wrong, Cybarian gets it pretty much dead on. It’s intended to be an homage to side-scrolling beat-’em-ups of the late ‘80s/early ‘90s, and it completely nails that in every respect.

Unfortunately, that’s not exactly a good thing. Unless you’re looking at the past through some heavily tinted nostalgia goggles, the reality is that a good number of those side-scrolling beat-’em-ups of the late ‘80s/early ‘90s thoroughly sucked. And, to be frank, so does Cybarian.

For one thing, the combat is awful. The eponymous time-travelling warrior only has a small number of moves at his disposal, and they get pretty tiresome pretty quickly. On top of that, you have to chain them together if you want to get anywhere — Cybarian may be equipped with a sword, but there’s no hacking and slashing here. You have to do three-hit combos, and failing to do them properly will literally set you back a bit: you’ll find yourself knocked on your butt, unable to do anything for a few seconds and completely vulnerable to your enemy’s attacks. (To be fair, I’ll note that the game also mixes in some and ranged attacks, but those are secondary to the core mechanic of slash-slash-slash.) I don’t remember exactly which old-school games featured such shoddy combat, but Cybarian does a good job of dredging up those old feelings of bored annoyance that a lot of the dregs of that era produced.

And speaking of being knocked on your butt, Cybarian also revives that old, dumb trope of having your character knocked back and immobile for a few moments every time they get hit. Couple that with the penalty for failing to hit mandatory three-hit combos, and you can see how it’s easy to get caught in a loop of death.

You might think that these complaints are generated by a feeling that the game is too hard. Improbably, that’s not the case here, particularly because the game has different difficulty levels. Rather, it’s just dull and repetitive.

To the game’s credit, at least it has the self-awareness to be short, too, with only four levels. As such, if you do choose to spend/waste time with Cybarian, the good news is that you won’t have to spend very much of it.

More seriously, though, I do give the game credit for also hitting on just the right look and sound. Retro graphics may be played out, but Cybarian does an admirable job of utilizing the eye-searing colour palette of its forerunners. Like a lot of those old games, even though Cybarian features colours not found anywhere in nature, it still finds a way of making them look good.

Pity, though, that they’re wasted on such a lousy game. I mean, if Cybarian’s goal was to remind people that a lot of the games from 30 years ago were lousy-to-mediocre, mission accomplished, but if they wanted to do anything more than that, they didn’t come anywhere close to succeeding.

Ratalaika Games provided us with a Cybarian: The Time Travelling Warrior PS4/Vita code for review purposes.

Grade: D