Shadow Warrior Review: Wang-Tastic
Chopping dudes clean in half with a katana and bathing the scenery with absurd fountains of blood spray is wicked gross fun, and the fact it’s one of the first things you do in Shadow Warrior gets the old-school slaughtering action off to a rocking start. This, of course, comes moments after an appropriately cheesy intro sequence featuring Stan Bush’s “You’ve Got The Touch” — you know, the theme from the 1986 animated Transformers film? It tugs on all the right nerd nostalgia strings, as does many bright moments in this goofy first-person gore-fest.
Developer: Flying Wild Hog
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Release Date: September 26, 2013
A reboot of the 1997 original, Shadow Warrior jumpkicks its way into a more modern gaming era with a mix of old-school ideas and fresh flourishes that translate surprisingly well. But the crass Duke Nukem-esque humor? That depends on your threshold for dick jokes and playful riffing on cliche Asian stereotypes. The game’s tongue-in-cheek protagonist Lo Wang takes every opportunity to curse profusely, make crude jokes, and swing his surname around with wanton abandon. Its not high-brow by any means, though the antics are worth a cringe-worthy chuckle every now and then.
Wang’s lengthy retro journey kicks off with a straightforward gig to recover an ancient mystical sword, the Nobitsura Kage, but soon spins out into a demon slaughtering jaunt through the underworld and back. Pairing up with an impish spirit named Hoji gives access Wang otherworldly powers that come in handy while blasting and cleaving through undead hordes. It also adds some nice character depth to contrast against Wang’s snappy one-liners. This unlikely duo’s distinct personalities also play off each other well, making for some entertaining exchanges during the down time between battles.
The somber tone and poetic nature of the underlying story, however, doesn’t quite jive with Shadow Warrior’s more raucous moments and scatological humor. It’s an odd fit at times, and the story’s length feels like it drags on in the later half, stretching things farther than the action-heavy focus merits. Fortunately, finding new ways of cutting people and things in twain proves a compelling reason to stick with it.