Batbarian is a self-described “action-adventure puzzle romp through the shadowy depths of a cave.” It’s also pretty silly. Also, a big wide, interconnected map to explore, which is always a plus for me. I played an early build recently, and based on what I’ve seen, Batbarian‘s looking good.
The game begins with our protagonist regaling someone with the tale of what happened to them. It starts off with them falling down a very deep pit, remarking how this is probably the end. Only it isn’t: they land with a thud, seemingly unharmed, their cute little bat buddy arriving soon after. Stuck in a cave with no idea where they are, it’s off to explore and hopefully find a way out.
For the first few rooms, Batbarian seems pretty linear. Soon enough the map starts to reveal some branching paths, however, some of which lead into other zones. As it’s only the beginning, I can’t really explore very far, but I still mark those spots on the map anyway just in case. Moving around involves a lot of simple platforming punctuated by the occasional puzzle and/or enemy. Combat boils down to swinging your sword/claws (which one depends on what form you decide to have the barbarian take) until your opponent dies. Slaying enemies grants you experience points, which allow you to increase your stats (strength, defense, and awareness) upon leveling up via a roulette wheel.
Puzzles on the other hand range from the rudimentary — push blocks to activate switches or make pathways — to the more inventive — using enemies to help you progress. Most of them involve using fruit to direct Pip. Throw a regular ol’ berry and Pip will chase after it before returning to you (useful for turning on lights). Throw a sticky one and Pip will remain where you threw the fruit for a brief period (usually to activate switches). Toss a “pungent” one and Pip will charge forward, attacking any enemies in their path.
As I moved forward, I kept catching glimpses of a… spirit? Demon? Some sort of shadowy figure that would briefly show itself before vanishing. Once it finally decided to reveal itself, it hinted at the bigger picture of what’s going on here, not that the barbarian cared. They’re simply interested in getting out, not in vague gestures about what’s hidden here. The writing’s got a very jokey tone throughout, as evidenced by that exchange, but, at least so far, it works, never feeling like it’s trying too hard for laughs.
Eventually I came upon a wizard in need of rescue. His name was Drai Lez and, despite the barbarian’s hatred of magic (literally all three dialog options were “I HATE MAGES”), decided to join. As a party member, Drai Lez can shoot fireballs on command, which definitely came in handy given all the flying foes I started to encounter soon after he joined. He was also able to permanently enable fast travel between campfires (which server as save/checkpoints) making it way easier to move around and double-check any old rooms for anything I might have missed. Our partnership didn’t last long, however, as it wasn’t long before we found ourselves in front of a massive, imposing door that only magic could open. Upon doing so, an evil-looking spirit came out and snatched the wizard, leaving me once more on my own. But hey, at least the door opened?
From there it was onto a new zone, trading the rocky caverns for an underground complex of some sort. Lot of traps and stonework — not to mention bookshelves filled with info about magic and such. The enemies populating the area begin to feel more eldritch than before. Sure there are frogs that spit fire and overgrown bugs, but there are also strange, almost corrupted looking plants that shoot some sort of magic and tall monsters that turn to stone upon exposure to light. This zone plays a lot more with enemies being used to help you in puzzles and navigation, those particular creatures being a prime example.
Eventually I come across another mage. Instead of another human, however, it’s a three-headed monster who can teleport. Can’t very well chase it down, as such. They don’t like Pip’s light, though — it’s able to stun them every time I send her over. The fight starts off simple enough: just run between each side of the area and attack after stunning them, avoiding the projectiles they’re firing occasionally. Once they start summoning help and conjuring gusts of wind that keep me from advancing, however, things get trickier. Took a few tries to get best them — mostly due to my mistake of regularly running into the boss’ attacks.
Before I can finish them off, though, they’re carried away by another demon through a portal. Afterward it’s back to exploring. I find someone locked in a cage asking to be let out (possible companion, maybe?), followed by the entrance to a prison, the guards of which are too busy playing cards to take notice of me (I tried to bribe them, but they had to deliberate on whether they should accept it; hadn’t gone back to check up on them since). I end up wrapping back around to the first zone, which is a nice little reminder of how far I’ve explored. I run into that mage again, this time fighting off a huge monster it summoned. I get new ability for Pip that allows her to engulf herself in fire instead of the usual light she casts, which allows me to get past some of those nasty vines I’ve been running into. It’s not long before I finally encounter the end of the demo build, though, dead ends abound.
Batbarian currently doesn’t have a release date, right now slated for sometime next year on PC.