Babarageo is up to his old antics again. The pixel-loving Japanese game designer responsible for Flash gems like Uchuwars, Uchuforce 2 and the adorable little STG Banner (a 15-pixel-tall space shooter) recently converted his newest game, Ginormo Sword, from Japanese to English. If you've played any of Babarageo's earlier games, you'll know this guy's got a serious pixel-fetish. He also has a reputation for developing games that end up being a lot more fun to play than you might imagine from looking at screenshots. The same is true of Ginormo Sword, a fantasy action game with subtle RPG elements drawn from the golden age of Atari and Intellivision games.
You control a pink, ninja-looking hero equipped with a sword and nothing else. There are no other weapons in this game; your sole task when it comes to upgrading your power is to make your sword bigger, longer, thicker and stronger. Obvious metaphorical references aside, it's actually an innovative weapon system. As you gather more money and items by battling monsters and bosses, you can enhance your sword in a variety of ways. There are a few different swords available throughout the game, each offering its own strengths and weaknesses (such as giving you a bonus to fire damage, but a negative modifier to water). Once you've picked a sword, you can visit your neighborhood blacksmith and spend gold to raise your sword's level, allowing you to increase it's length and width. As you'll see in the real-time combat, added length and width help you reach monsters easier, and hit them more often.
The game presents you with a world map of 16 zones. Your starting zone features an Inn where you can access your inventory, check your stats stats and modify your save file. Other zones are covered by a "fog of war," and zones are unlocked in a linear fashion. In each zone, you have to hunt around, using your mouse cursor to control your hero. A text display above the map will indicate when you've found a "monster node." Click the mouse to enter combat, and you'll go up against a random number of monsters to battle. Move with your mouse, attack by clicking; the combat sequences look a bit ridiculous, literally resembling the action you'd expect from an old Atari game. Move your 2D hero around the monsters, dodging collisions and taking sword swipes at them to lower their health. Once you've killed all the monsters in a node, it becomes "unlocked" and visible for repeated visits. You can only move on to the next zone when you've defeated all the current zone's monster nodes and final boss.
Analysis: At first glance, Ginormo Sword might seem like some wacky tribute to retro action-RPG games, meant to be more nostalgic than entertaining. But as we've seen with Babarageo's other games, that's far from the truth. Ginormo Sword—developed with rudimentary graphics, sound and gameplay style—is able to hold its own against similar flash games in the genre today when it comes to fun-factor. There's a pretty elaborate design underneath all those blocky little pixels; you can visit temples to upgrade your base stats, learn magic from wizards to shoot napalm or water bolts from your sword, buy better armor and items to help you survive, and much more. There's even an elemental-based system of damage and protection, with different colored gems to collect that you can trade in for sword and armor enhancements. You'll probably find your share of annoying interface issues when controlling your hero, sometimes veering off in a direction you didn't intend. The choice to use the [arrow] or [WASD] keys would have been nice for those who like more tactile control, something we can only hope for in a later version. You may find combat occasionally annoying as well, with sword swipes not hitting the enemy unless you're horizontally lined up with them just right. But then again, that's why when it comes to your weapon, bigger is always better.