A gamer and writer at heart who wants to combine his hobbies into one. I am 25 years old and I'm from the Netherlands. Having played many games over the years, I wanted to express my love for them, however obscure they may be!
Cybarian: The Time Travelling Warrior. It’s a title that got me interested right away because it indicates a barbarian travelling through time, fighting all sorts of baddies. Given that it is an indie game, I directly assumed it to be a 2D Platformer amongst the likes of Volgarr the Viking. Opening the Steam store page did indeed confirm my hopes and without further thinking, I put it on my wishlist and waited for a nice sale. I’m an easy man who doesn’t need much convincing to play a game he’s interested in. But unsurprisingly, it still took me about two years to finally get to the game because my Steam library is a road with no end in sight. But oh well, I finally played it, beat it and now we are here! Without further ado, here’s is my mini-review of Cybarian!
The first thing I did when I put on Cybarian was removing the scanlines immediately. Never really saw the purpose of these filters in modern indie games but whatever, they’re a toggleable option so it doesn’t hurt me.
Just like a good old Arcade game, you’re immediately thrown into the game upon pressing start. The first screen serves as a tutorial screen–and don’t be like ol’ Nepiki here ”I am elite gamer, tutorial is bad civ” and walk straight past it. Take a breath and look at the button prompt, and also fight those dummy humans who, for some reason, are unable to die even after being stabbed by your sword a million times, and also won’t fight you back for it. I say this because there is something important to know about the battle system, namely that it is timing-based. You can’t just mash the x button and expect success, as you’ll enter a stagger state upon missing the rhythm which will leave you open to attacks.
The other side of the coin is the length of the sword. It may look like a huge-sized sword of destruction and doom (or at least, bigger than a normal sword), but the reach of it isn’t. So yet again, take your time in the first screen to gauge the distance you’re able to hit. Touching an enemy doesn’t hurt you fortunately, so getting up-close isn’t a bad idea. There isn’t much else to combat initially, but you get access to a few different abilities over the course of the game, such as throwing your sword like a boomerang. After I got used to the controls, I found them to be satisfying enough. However, I do think the sword throw and dodge roll are a bit too broken because they practically allow you to avoid combat altogether. Dodging into an attack that ends before your roll animation finishes counts as a dodge after all, so avoiding damage shouldn’t be a problem once you understand how it works.
The stages consist of both the combat and platforming variety, with both having an emphasis on timing. Luring out attacks from enemies and platforming over erupting flames are some examples of this. There’s a good amount of different enemies and obstacles, so every stage does feel different enough despite the theme being the same. The main protagonist might be a time-travelling warrior, but he only really visits one era. Might as well have called it ”Cybarian the Time Travelling Warrior to one era” but I digress; I enjoyed going through these stages, though there isn’t a lot too them. It’s a straight line to the boss with no alternate pathways, no secrets, nothing. There’s a boss waiting at the end of each stage which were all definitely fun to fight against, though they’re all bound to a singular unchanging pattern.
When the developers wanted to make an arcade game, they took that idea very literally. Cybarian: The Time Travelling Warrior is an old-school hard- but fair game. The stages themselves have no checkpoints aside from right before the boss, and there is no save file either so you have to beat the game in one sitting. I don’t find any of these two to be an issue due to the length of the stages–and the game’s length as a whole. That said: the very short length is also the game’s biggest weakness. Even on your first blind playthrough, it will at best only last an hour max, and that time can easily be halved depending on your skill. Despite it being inspired by arcade games and also having no checkpoints, I’m personally of the opinion that it’s perfectly manageable once you understand all the controls. You can even make the game easier by winning a slot machine at the end of a stage that increases your health bar, which is kind of weird to put behind an RNG-based minigame but it didn’t bother me personally. This slot could probably have functioned differently if they gave the coins you find in stages more use, but that’s unfortunately not the case.
The goal of Cybarian: The Time Travelling Warrior was to be an arcade-like game inspired by old-school platformers and beat-m-ups, and I’d say they’ve done a fairly good job at it. The difficulty is deliberately set to be an arcade-like experience, but I personally found it to be perfectly manageable overall due to later abilities slightly ruining the otherwise fine timing-based combat. I had fun going through the stages because they offered something new with every new area, but my main issue with them is a problem I have with the game in general: it’s far too short, and also a bit too simplistic. The game can easily be beaten in less than an hour, and while I certainly had fun and craved for more, I’m of the opinion that this game is too short. There’s a lot of potential for a good, or even great game here, but most of it doesn’t reach the potential it could have become.
- Replicates the feeling of arcade games.
- Timing-based combat that punishes failure.
- There's a fair difficulty.
- Far too short.
- There is little actual time travelling to be found.
- Later abilities are very strong and make the combat less interesting as a result.
Thank you for reading! I was originally planning to make this a full review instead of a mini-review, and I long debated about whether I should or not. But honestly, I couldn’t do it. I really did enjoy the game, but it was over before I could walk to the fridge for a beer. There is little else to talk about, which is a shame. I know arcade games aren’t long either, but most of them didn’t feature a progression system like the new abilities that are unlocked in this game. But oh well, this is just one man’s opinion. If the developers ever decided to revisit this game or make a sequel, I’d definitely be interested.
Speaking of… the Steam version is apparently the worst version? The achievements are different at the very least, which are satanic on the Steam version. But I also saw difficulty modes on a console playthrough.
…I won’t stand for this.
What is needed to convince you to buy a game you formerly have never heard of? Do you look at images or videos, or do you check out reviews before making your decision for example?
For me personally, it’s a combination of the box art (or a banner on Steam), the title and the screenshots. If it looks fun, then I’ll give it a try. I do often get people telling me what their opinion is on a game when I’m about to buy- or play it, but I mostly go with my instincts and judge a game myself.