2D action platformers are among the most satisfying experiences in gaming, where precise gameplay mechanics come together with tight level design to deliver a tour deforce. Golden Force on Xbox joins the many solid 2D indie efforts, and while most may see immediate comparisons with something like Shantae, there’s a lot more going for Golden Force than meets the eye.
Although there is a vibrant and colourful world on display, there isn’t a whole lot in terms of storyline or narrative, but the charming character designs situate nicely in the various fantastical backdrops the game has to offer. That being said, Golden Force has one of the coolest opening sequences where the first segment is an epic boss encounter. What better way to learn a new game than getting thrown right into the water (funnily enough, this boss is fought on water), and so in a way it takes after something like Mega Man X where the player learns by doing rather than watching. This opening boss encounter against a giant kraken whilst you are on a pirate ship certainly leaves a strong first impression, and really sets the scene for what to expect.
From thereon, Golden Force has players exploring an island world of sorts that is divided into thematic areas, each offering bite-sized stages and huge boss encounters. The game structure and design are sound, where it’s easy to work from stage to stage, with each providing opportune checkpoints to help balance the pacing and difficulty. The boss encounters are the highlight of the experience, offering intuitive designing which often mix action and platforming to deliver some creative challenges.
In terms of core gameplay, Golden Force plays quite similar to Mega Man X. Anyone who has ever used Zero in the Mega Man X games will find the combat mechanics quite familiar, especially in the classic three hit combo system. There’s dash jumping and sliding too – a slight nod to the Rocket Knight games on Mega Drive and SNES. As a 2D action game the flow is generally smooth and enjoyable, although players will need to pay attention to animation frames when connecting the basic combo attack, as it is often easy to get stuck in an attack animation and not have enough time to react.
It seems that Golden Force was largely designed with the boss battles in mind, as these are the strongest aspects of the experience. The standard action platforming stages, although quite fun, can feel a bit on the lethargic side since it feels like you are often congested with enemy encounters. Still, there is interesting variety and design to these stages, with lots of big coins to collect and some clever platforming to navigate using the dash ability. Still, although the platforming stages are interesting and functional, they feel like fodder when compared to the more thoughtfully designed boss encounters.
Golden Force has four cool-looking characters to choose from, and they’re mostly identical aside from a few subtle differences in the playstyle and feel. Although fun as a single player game, having a second player join in on the fun in local co-op really improves the flow and pacing of the game. It makes it easier to navigate the stages, and makes conquering the epic bosses all the more satisfying.
Golden Force on Xbox isn’t anything remarkable or fascinating, but it offers a more structured and defined 2D action platformer experience compared to other alternatives which largely adhere to Metroidvania conventions. The stage-to-stage gameplay structure works well thanks to the level design variety, but the pacing can feel lethargic especially when faced with numerous enemies. All the gameplay ideas however come together and shine during the epic boss encounters, which are the highlight of the experience. Golden Force offers tight 2D gameplay in its memorable boss encounters, and with another player in local co-op it becomes a satisfying adventure.