Swords and Sandals: Spartacus
Developer: Whiskeybarrel Studios
Publisher: Ultimate Games
Platform: Nintendo Switch, PC
Age Rating: T (Teen) / PEGI 12
Release Date: June 22nd, 2020
Price: $12.99 / €12.99 / £11.69
A code was provided for review purposes.
The Swords and Sandals franchise is a long-running one. The first entry came in 2006 and spanned nearly a dozen different titles since then. Many of the games play relatively the same way, and yet the latest entry ‘Spartacus’ serves fans with something different in an attempt to keep the series fresh. Based, obviously, on the legendary gladiator Spartacus, this entry is an action-focused arcade-style platformer based in the ancient empire of Rome. Notably, it was developed by the one-man operation known as Whiskeybarrel Studios fronted by Oliver Joyce, the man behind the entire franchise.
How does it look?
Initial impressions will have the player thinking “wow, this looks pretty cool” largely due to the classic arcade-era graphics and visuals. The looks alone almost have the power to transport a player back to the good old days of a classic arcade cabinet; however, it doesn’t necessarily feel visually polished, with an overall lack of variety and effects.
Along with old-style graphics come archaic issues in the gameplay. The controls are extremely rigid and not precisely responsive, which in turn makes the button layout feel very convoluted. On top of that, the hitboxes are shameful and the theme of “lack of variety” pops its annoying head up in regards to weapons and types of offence. With all of those subpar qualities combined, it makes for a difficult game – and not in the way where it’s considered a worthwhile challenge. To put it bluntly, it’s completely frustrating and a huge turn-off.
As mentioned before, there isn’t much variety in the game, but it is worth noting that one thing it does right is offering small secret treasures and paths for the player to pursue. Though it is hard to tell where they are, as sometimes they’re outright hidden behind a wall that happens to be passable, it does add a tiny layer of depth to a puddle-deep game when talking about level design, structure, and story.
Swords and Sandals: Spartacus takes a lot of risks, but they don’t really pay off. It would probably be more ideal that the series stick to its roots and not continue to venture into new grounds. There’s a reason the original style of gameplay has given lots of blood to the series as a whole, and it’d be a bummer to see that dry up as a result of these misfired risks.