It seems like all you really have to do is mention Nitrome, and people know they're in for a treat. They sort of feel like the Willy Wonka of casual gameplay, distilling fun down into tasty little pixel packages. Up until now, there has been a disappointing lack of games where you can wield a barely conscious chicken to destroy all who oppose you. Nitrome has come to fix that and bring a little sunshine into your day with Double Edged.
Double Edged can be played on your own or with a friend. Either way, it's time to put on your massive helmet and gird those manly loins, because ancient Greece is calling. You might think it's just another side-scrolling hack-and-slash adventure. And then the little satyrs would go running past you. Followed closely by the juggernauts and the chickens. And the first time you stunned a boar so you could pick it up and throw it at someone, you would know something wonderful was happening.
Played with the keyboard, you use the [arrow] keys to move around the screen, [<] to attack and [>] to jump. If an item is in front of you, the [<] key picks it up, and tapping it again will throw it in the direction you're facing. If an enemy disarms you, or you just want to swap your weapon for one you've found, stand close to the weapon and tap [<] to pick it up. If you find yourself surrounded, pushing [<] and [>] at the same time will unleash a whirlwind attack that will knock down and stun most enemies.
If you've never played a side-scroller before, it's okay! Shhhh, shhhh, it's okay. Put down the paper bag, because we promise you Nitrome has made this as easy as possible for you to learn. Each time enemies appear, you'll need to kill all of them before the big, flashing, disembodied hand will give you the go-ahead to the next area. As you progress, enemies will drop coins that increase your score, which can be picked up simply by walking over them. If you come across a treasure chest, bust it open by throwing it against the side of the screen, or someone's face. Inside, you'll find precious coins, and occasionally equally precious (but significantly more delicious) roasted chicken, which replenishes your health.
While most of the levels have you simply fighting your way from one end to another against hordes of enemies, most of whom apparently shop at the same helmet outlet you do, every few stages you'll come across a different boss. Some of them can be handled by old-fashioned stabbin', but others require a special trick to defeat. None of them are very challenging, but the little stories behind each one add a lot of personality to the game and really make it stand out.
Analysis: Rendered in Nitrome's familiar pixel-perfect art style, Double Edged not only looks great, it plays great too. And by that I don't just mean the controls are easy and the frame-rate stays silky-smooth. Well, they are, and it does, but what I really mean to say is, Double Edged might be the most fun I've had in a free flash game all year. I bludgeoned a man to death with a chicken. I hurled boars and men who had been turned to solid gold at my enemies.
Ladies and gentleman, you can ride a tiger. I owe Nitrome a Christmas card this year. And they should be invited to all of your birthday parties.
While it's not the longest game you'll ever play, what's there has been polished to a mirror finish. In a previous review for a similar game, limited control keys were cited as a poor decision. Surprisingly, the same concept works much better here. The single attack button allows you to focus on the constant moving you need to do to keep ahead of your enemies. Since each weapon you'll pick up has its own attack, you aren't left fumbling with the controls in frustration, trying to figure out if you're facing the right way with the planets in the proper alignment to trigger a special move. Fans of more strategic gameplay may be put off by the lack of a control scheme they can master and hone their skills on, but in my opinion it makes Double Edged user friendly, so that you can jump right in without missing a beat.
Aside from its brevity, the only other real complaint I have with Double Edged is that it's also fairly easy. Even when the screen was being swarmed by legions of little Grecian Stormtroopers, I was only ever rarely in any danger of dying. Some enemies do more damage than most, of course, but most of their attacks can be laughed off. Maybe because they haven't learned the fine art of boar-bashin' or chicken-chuckin'. What this means is that while Double Edged is tremendously fun, beating it doesn't feel like any sort of momentous achievement, either.
If you're looking for something fun to take up an afternoon, Double Edged is here to sweep you up into its burly, reassuring embrace, stroke your brow, and then throw you at an enemy soldier. It's not thought-provoking, but it is a wicked amount of fun, and sometimes that's all you really want from a game. Offering fast gameplay with a friendly design and a great sense of humour, Double Edged is a great addition to Nitrome's library. Just don't let PETA find out about it.