From a developer by the name of Serkhan Bakar and their publishing friends at Dolores Entertainment is Beholgar.
Beholgar is the name of the main character, a hulking great barbarian who is out to save the world. Think Conan the Barbarian after a course of steroids and you’ll be in the right ballpark. Billed as a Metroidvania-type adventure, and with the almost obligatory retro-styled presentation to boot, is Beholgar a welcome entry to the genre, or are we better off playing Metroid, or indeed Castlevania? Strap on your furry pants, we’re going in.
Starting with the presentation and this is very much a retro-styled product, with graphics harking back to the glory days of gaming. In fact, if this was running on a Super Nintendo or an Amiga, you wouldn’t bat an eye, and with period correct music to listen and groove along to, the tone is set just right.
Beholgar himself is a big, strapping lad, with a nifty line in not only big choppers, but also with projectile weaponry. He’ll need them too as the enemies are pretty much as you’d expect – skeletons straight out of a Ray Harryhausen film, goblins, and some large boss type creatures too. All in all, it’s safe to say that Beholgar pretty much does all the things that you would expect; there is nothing particularly unexpected. Read into that what you will. I never used the word unoriginal…
So how about the story of the game… why is Beholgar swinging his mighty weapon about and upsetting the decent undead folk of the world? Well, it appears that an evil sorcerer has read a book; and not a self help book about how to be better at life. No, he has taken in the pages of something that has invited an evil God to the land, and so it will take someone with large muscles and a sharp piece of steel in their hand to put this situation to rights. It will take a barbarian, basically, and luckily that is what we are. Pausing only to sharpen our sword, we must traverse the world, gaining new abilities and spells, and ensure that this evil sorcerer sticks to Harry Potter books in future.
Beholgar works as a Metroidvania at heart. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, basically two greats of the side scrolling platform action game, Metroid and Castlevania, are fused together to describe any game where backtracking is required to get the most out of the game, revisiting old areas with new abilities to reach new areas and hopefully gain some groovy loot. With me so far? Well, Beholgar fits this genre perfectly, as abilities that you can grab include gloves that allow you to cling to the edge of platforms and then make your way up, whilst a double jump comes about from finding some boots, and so on and so forth.
With each of the save points acting as a fast travel hub, Beholgar allows you to warp to any previously visited area of the game, meaning that the way is clear to go back to old places with new skills and explore fully. Of course, one thing that these type of games do generally need is a map, to show where you have and haven’t been, and this is a glaring omission in Beholgar. Wandering around early areas on the off chance of finding a new bit does take the shine off the exploration a tad.
What about the actual combat though, leaving aside the exploring? Well, okay is about the best that can be said of it. I am not particularly a fan of enemies that walk right through repeated sword swipes and still poke you in the eye, and unfortunately this game is full of them. With even basic skeletons taking three hits to put down, it takes a deft touch to try and stay within sword distance, but outside their range. It’s fairly easy to continue to be killed – on a regular basis – by the most simple of enemies.
That means you shouldn’t even get me started on the skeletons who throw axes, which can not only vary the range they travel before they come arcing down, but can also pass through solid stone when they go vertical, hitting you through platforms. It’s not awfully realistic, and more than a little irritating. Trying to hit enemies with the variety of ranged weapons at your disposal is a little better, but with a limited supply, you really don’t want to miss. Seeing as the timing of the throws, especially if you are jumping, is harder than a quadratic equation, the combat is not one of the stronger points of the game.
Sadly, neither is the platforming side of things. I really do feel that someone should have had a word with Beholgar before he set out on his quest, informing him that greasing the soles of his boots was a really bad idea. But they didn’t, and it is. You see, jumping demands absolute precision, and sadly when Beholgar lands, he slides a little way. That’s not necessarily an issue on flat and level ground, but in the depths of dungeons, surrounded by insta-death spike pits? A very bad idea.
It goes without saying that the best of these type of games feature absolute precision, and controls that inspire confidence. Sadly, Beholgar doesn’t. You should be well prepared for many deaths, and much bad language, as you struggle to reach the next cauldron and save your progress.
In conclusion and in Beholgar we have a game with some good ideas that is marred by poor execution. The combat feels samey and yet frustrating, the jumping will have you chewing your joypad, and while Beholgar looks fine, things like platform piercing axes are the nail in the coffin. With some attention paid to the user experience, Beholgar could have been a contender, but as it stands right now, it’s hard to recommend this to anyone but the most ardent of Metroidvania fans.
Beholgar is on the Xbox Store
- Nice retro look
- New abilities make a difference to the way the game plays
- Combat is frustratingly bad
- Jumping includes some odd sliding - leave the roller skates at home Beholgar!
- No map makes exploring annoying
- Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - Dolores Entertainment
- Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Switch
- Version reviewed - Xbox One on Xbox Series X
- Release date - 21 October 2022
- Launch price from - £8.39