Rage of the Gladiator - WII - Review
Ghostfire Games offers a new twist on the classic boxing simulator with Rage of the Gladiator. The mechanics are fairly familiar, and easy to grasp even if you’re a newcomer. Using the first-person perspective, the player is thrust into the sandals of Gracius, a comically melodramatic aristocrat-turned-brawler who must face a slew of bizarre enemies in the arena. Gracius recounts his story with a voice that sounds like a drunken Alec Baldwin, contrasted sharply by the excellent illustrations that accompany the narrative.
This disparity makes the initial tone of the story somewhat difficult to grasp, yet once the first battle commences, all becomes clear. Your first opponent is a green-skinned thug who calls upon his patron deity to aid him in battle. As you continue to pummel him, he becomes increasingly desperate and whiny, begging his god for further enchantments. This is just one example of the clever coloring the developers have given to each character. Instead of an authentic gladiatorial combat experience riddled with retiarii, the battlefield is comprised of exotic creatures mystical and magical. The enemies range from silly cultural stereotypes to fearsome monsters with odd personality quirks, and the combination of voiceovers with unique attacks ensures that each battle is memorable. Making each opponent into a character rather than just a glorified punching bag helps maintain interest; you’re anxious to see who you’ll be pitted against in the next fight.
The combat itself is rooted in classic risk vs. reward mechanics. Some attacks can be reliably blocked with the shield, but this offers little opportunity to strike back. Dodging attacks offer an opportunity to counter, and successfully stunning the opponent yields a chance to execute a combo flourish. There are also parries that require swift reflexes, as well as a keen understanding of the enemy’s tactics. Learning about each villain is intended to be a fun (if painful) challenge, so you’ll need to get a feel for the “rhythm” of each fight. One combatant happens to be a snake charmer, so not only do you have to watch out for his servile serpents, but also his blade attacks, and fiery-magic projectiles. Like many foes you’ll face, he’ll surprise you as each round proceeds; in the final round, he’ll transform into a giant snake with its own unique set of attacks.
The successful fighter isn’t afraid to get knocked around a bit, in order to properly learn the attack patterns of the enemy; besides, evading an enemy’s swing and then beating the crap out of him is undeniably fun with the Wii-mote. The first fighter to knock his opponent out three times is declared the victor. I found myself wishing that some elaborate finishing moves could be executed as a final reward for the victory, but this would raise the game into a substantially higher level of violence, making it a more questionable title for younger audiences. As it is, Rage of the Gladiator stands firm as an accessible title where you shouldn’t have to feel too guilty about the fellows you’re beating up.
However, there are rewards to be found in the form of upgrades following each victory. These upgrades are categorized according to their utility in offense, defense, or magic. Some unlock new flourishes, while others increase health regeneration, allowing the player to tailor their gladiator to suit individual playing styles. There is also a challenge mode to keep things interesting after you defeat all 10 warriors in the campaign, but the game is still restricted to single-player. Even so, the core elements of the game remain strong, and the campy presentation certainly offers amusement. Rage of the Gladiator is genuinely fun to play, and that’s what matters most.