I don't know about you, but there's nothing quite like a quality cooperative game experience. Gathering around the TV with your pals and beating up a bunch of bad guys is always a fun time in my eyes, so it should come as no surprise to you that I enjoyed my time with Sacred Citadel quite a bit.
Sacred Citadel is a side-scrolling beat 'em up that takes the mainstays of any game in this genre and layers them atop a deep and engrossing combat system that is an absolute joy to learn. The fundamentals are relatively simple, making it easy to grasp right from the get-go. As with any game of this ilk, Sacred Citadel has you moving horizontally across each of the title's numerous and varied levels, destroying every foul creature that blocks your way. In an effort to add a bit of depth to the gameplay, Southend Interactive also adds another dimension, allowing you to move closer to and further from the screen. We've seen this in plenty of other 2D brawlers, so it's nothing particularly special, but something worth noting nonetheless.
Upon booting up the game and proceeding to the character selection screen, I couldn't help but think of Gauntlet Legends, a game my brother and I sunk hours upon hours into back when it launched on the Nintendo 64. While the two games are drastically different, both offer a handful of character classes to choose from that markedly change the way you play. In Sacred Citadel you can be either a Warrior, Mage, Ranger, or Shaman. As one might expect, the Mage possesses magic abilities, the Ranger comes equipped with a bow, the Warrior is a hulking brute... You get the picture.
Additionally, the game is broken into five "Acts," each with its own assortment of rich and gorgeous levels. Make no mistake, this game is an absolute beauty to behold. Sure, it may not be the most technically impressive title you've ever seen, but I'm a total sucker for lush and vibrant colors, so the game's aesthetic had me hooked immediately. It's artistically styled experiences like these that remind me that more polygons and better lighting effects don't necessarily equate to more engrossing visuals.
But enough about the game's stunning style; I'll just let the images embedded in the review speak for themselves. After selecting our characters and diving into the game's first mission, my brother and I were greeted by a long-winded and exposition-heavy introduction that had both of us rolling our eyes. Let's face it, gamers don't play side-scrolling brawlers for the story, and this one was fairly needless. Fortunately, skipping through the game's narrative bits (adequately voice-acted, mind you) will certainly be a welcomed feature to most gamers.
As the two of us hacked and blasted our way through a bunch of enemies, the game gradually introduced us to more complicated combos. The gameplay itself is elegantly simple, with your primary, secondary, and special attacks each mapped to a different face button. Chaining together different combinations of primary and secondary attacks along with a flick of the analog stick results in killer combos that add an incredible layer of depth to the gameplay.
Each player has three bars: one that keeps track of your experience, one that measures your health, and a third that shows you how close you are to being able to perform your aforementioned special attack. As you level up and progress, you'll unlock new tiers to your special, increasing the potential devastation that you can unleash once you've filled the meter by slaying a bunch of enemies.Cornering a cluster of baddies and unleashing my special was extremely satisfying, and actually brought back similar memories I had when playing Gauntlet Legends.
But it's not all about mashing attack buttons, as evasion is key to survival as well. The final face button allows you to jump, the right analog stick makes you roll, and the left trigger gives you the ability to block, all of which prove to be incredibly helpful when going against some of the bigger foes and monstrous bosses. Taking down these threatening creatures requires not only skill, but a powerful character equipped with lethal weapons.
As you progress, your character will earn experience. Rack up enough and you'll level up, which then provides you will points to boost your character's attributes including attack, dexterity, defense, and power. Naturally, each class has its own strengths and weaknesses, so keeping that in mind while building out your character will certainly make things easier. Defeated enemies will also occasionally leave behind items, including weapons, potions, money, etc. Each Act has its own town where you can spend your earned money on more potions, better gear, or even challenges that add an additional wrinkle to the experience. Think you can complete a level in under six minutes? There's a challenge for that.
There's a whole lot to love about Sacred Citadel, especially if you're a fan of beat 'em ups and co-op play. The game supports up to three players at a time, so you can gather around locally or meet up with your pals online. For the optimal experience, I suggest you play with others. As with any beat 'em up, the button-mashing can start to feel repetitive after a while, even with all of the added layers of gameplay. That said, should you blow through all five Acts and still find yourself craving more, you can always download the "Jungle Hunt" add-on, which not only serves up a completely new setting but also three bonus levels.
If you're in the mood for a solid 2D brawler that will keep you and your friends entertained for hours on end, I strongly recommend you give this game a look. Sacred Citadel takes the genre in an exciting direction forward, proving that older genres still have a place in the industry. Seriously, check this one out. You won't be disappointed.