In Bardbarian, you play as Brad, a barbarian for hire in a small town. He fashions a lute out of his war-axe and becomes half-bard, half-barbarian, hence the title. Your job as Brad is to protect a giant crystal in the town. You do this by recruiting units to join you and fight off the monsters that are aiming to destroy the crystal. Brad doesn’t actually attack the monsters; he just constantly plays his axe, jamming away and earning “notes”.
The monsters steadily advance and throw projectiles or shoot at you, and you must dodge their fire. As you run around the enemies, your units attack the ones closest to them. Your units can die, but you can always recruit more with notes. That being said, it benefits you to protect your units, as they level up gradually, and you must start from scratch if you have to recruit a new one. You only have to start over completely if Brad dies or if the enemies reach the crystal and destroy it.
As you kill enemies, they drop gold and notes. The notes can also be used by Brad to do solos, which will power up your units temporarily. Gold is used for upgrades when you’re not working through waves attackers. Enemies become more difficult as you progress through the waves, though the rewards are proportionately greater. The bosses can be pretty tough, but you get a ton of gold for taking them out.
Just Feel The Music, Man!
I love the song in the game. It makes me think nothing but 80’s hair bands and crazily-shaped guitars. It’s a metal song with some awesome guitar riffs, heavy drum beats, and keyboards thrown in. Although there’s not much of a backstory, the song is exactly what you’d expect from it. I would have liked to hear a couple more songs though, just to mix it up.
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Brad, his recruits, and the enemies all look pretty good. Provided, of course, you look very closely. It can be tough to appreciate the graphical quality of the characters because they are quite small. The backdrop of the main portion of the game isn’t really anything special. The buildings in the town look nice, but the rest of the small town is plain and not so impressive. The distance mode adds a bit, but the survival mode is even worse in terms of plain backdrops. This area of the game could have used a bit more ingenuity.
I’m torn on the controls. The buttons for recruiting more units and having Brad solo for power-ups are just fine, and placed well. Other than that, the only controls needed are for movement, since your units attack enemies automatically. The game utilizes a floating joystick, so you just tap wherever you like, and drag your finger in the direction you want Brad and the group to go. By forcing you to hold down on the screen in order to move, you block a good portion of it. This can be a problem when there are many enemies (and their recently thrown or fired projectiles) all over the place. Though the joystick makes sense, because you constantly need to be changing directions, a tapping system may have been better from a visibility standpoint.
Who Doesn’t Love to Shred?
Bardbarian starts off a little slow, but once you make it through a few waves and start earning gold for upgrades, it gets a lot more fun. There are 20 waves to get through, and this will take you a while. And good news: you don’t have to start all the way over every time. The waves are broken up into parts of the day which act as checkpoints of sorts, so once you get past a certain wave, you can start a little further ahead the next time if you want. The challenge modes give you a break if you get bored with the story mode. In survival, you run around as more and more enemies appear, trying to last as long as possible. And the distance mode makes you run as far as you can, weaving in and out of obstacles and enemies as you go. There are also plenty of units to unlock, and even more upgrades to buy.
The kill-wave-after-wave-of-enemies concept is usually a good one, and Bardbarian executes it well. It’s fun and has a good deal of replay value. If you don’t have to have breathtaking graphics and can deal with controls that can occasionally frustrate (or you have really small thumbs), this will be a good pick for you.