His joints may be creaky and the iconic blue ninja suit might be tighter around the waist than he remembers, but 25 years on, Strider is still all about speed.
Strider circa 2014 is a game built around speed-runs, just as Strider circa 1989 was a character built around momentum and Strider running (well, walking) forwards, slicing enemies out of his path.
The achievements are tailored around speed. The leaderboard is tailored around speed. And sure enough, the game itself is mostly tailored around zipping through at speed.
Strider 2014 – What’s New?
The linearity of the original Strider has been swapped out for a new – wait for it, here comes that word everyone loves – Metroidvania (yes!) structure where you’ll pass high ledges, coloured doors and the like that can’t be accessed until you return with the certain unlocked skills.
This resembles the likes of Guacamelee and Shadow Complex as much as it does old Strider. The original Striders certainly wouldn’t have needed an onscreen indicator telling you where to go next, while that small guide is indispensable here.
This new level design is mixed in with those classic Strider lines, those long stretches for Strider to take flight and run while slashing enemies away. It’s a mix that works far better than it has any right to, offering the speedy thrills of the original Strider outings while offering something new and modern as well.
The slow dripfeed of skills is perfectly judged as is the level design shifts and warps to test those Strider’s new abilities. Although calling the obstacles in Strider ‘puzzles’ would be a little generous, they offer enough resistance that you feel tested to get through each room without a scratch and, more importantly, quickly.
There’s a strangely hypnotic rhythm at work in Strider, as you slowly pick apart each map and grab whatever secrets your skillset allows you, before racing onto the next boss. It’s a game that lets you lock into a groove, giving you just about enough room to enjoy the speed of Strider without making things too easy.
Strider 2014 – What Doesn’t Work
Two things let Strider down. While Strider slowly becomes a force to be reckoned with, the levels becoming his equal regardless of what skills he has acquired, the bosses never quite match up to him.
Even though they adhere to old-school boss design – learn these patterns, attack when they’re vulnerable – the challenge never quite materialises and you never feel as though they give your skills a thorough workout.
Returning on Hard difficulty fixes the problem but it leaves your initial playthrough a little flatter than it should be.
The bigger problem is the look of the game itself. It’s dull. It’s drab. It’s boring. It’s a mess of indistinguishable greys and metals that seem to follow Strider around regardless of where he is. Some fiery furnace thing? A construction site? An oppressed town? An evil underground laboratory? It doesn’t matter – everything in Strider’s world almost always defaults to a big slab of grey.
The enemies don’t fare much better, the resistance to Strider being human-shaped blobs of colour with machine guns/rocket launchers/sticky bombs (delete as appropriate) while robot enemies also look like they’ve tumbled off the conveyor belt at the Big Generic Factory Of Big Generic Things.
Given how well-designed the look of Strider is – scarf billowing behind him as he runs, sideways cartwheels punctuating each jump, arcade scanlines present throughout – it’s disappointing to see no-one else in this outing (including the bosses) has even a shred of the personality or cool that Capcom’s ninja possesses.
Strider 2014 – Review
But these are merely glancing blows rather than insurmountable obstacles that derail Strider’s momentum – this is still comfortably ahead of other retro reboots such as Flashback, TMNT: Turtles In Time Re-Shelled and the hideous Double Dragon II: Wander Of The Dragons.
If all retro remakes had the same sense that Double Helix had with Strider (or even looking at what Double Helix did with Killer Instinct), combining the ethos of the original with the ambition to add something new, then perhaps we’d start approaching reboots with a sense of optimism rather than fear.
Strider fans, speed-run addicts and those after a platformer with room to explore will find lots of mileage here. It’s just a shame the bosses and artwork let the side down and keep this as a good retro reboot rather than a truly excellent one.
Version Tested: Xbox 360