Rage of the Gladiator Review
- Fights feel good
- Opponents are interesting
- Skill tree changes the feel of the game
- Voice Work
- Would have liked more fighters
- Some opponents feel silly (Ixhthid)
The development team for Rage of the Gladiator have billed it as a sort of Roman era Punch-Out!! and I can honestly say that after getting my hands on it that it’s very true, if you’re talking of a more mythological Rome. Rage of the Gladiator is the second WiiWare outing for the members of Ghostfire Games after Helix and the first to take advantage of Nintendo’s Motion Plus peripheral. Having been a huge fan of Punch-Out! since the original on NES and having bought the new Punch-Out!! when it was released on Wii I was looking forward to this game after it was announced.
Before even getting into the title screen you choose one of the three control options available to you. You can choose to use the Wii Remote on it’s side, the Wii Remote/Nunchuk combination or you can plug in the Motion Plus peripheral for a little bit more precision in your attacks. Punch-Out!! purists will most likely stick to the Wii Remote on it’s side, which is the option that I used to play through the campaign, though I did use both other control schemes for some time and it feels exactly like Punch-Out!! did on Wii.
There are some differences that set this game apart from Punch-Out!! and make for a somewhat different experience. The first is the game’s story, which sets you in the role of Gracius, a prince who’s been betrayed. The story is told, in between every few fights, through a series of still pictures with Gracius telling you his story over top of those, and the art in these story sections is quite nice to look at. It’s nothing new and if you’ve seen Gladiator with Russell Crowe you kinda know what to expect. It makes the game a little bit more engaging because you just might be interested enough in the story to pay attention.
The fights in the game, though, are what you’re really looking for and they feel quite good in the way they’re implemented. The Wii Remote d-pad and the 1 and 2 buttons are used to dodge, jump and attack your way to victory. If you’re used to Punch-Out’s control method it will take a little bit of getting used to. In Rage of the Gladiator all attacks default to high and you press down on the d-pad to initiate low attacks. Pressing the 1 and 2 buttons will perform left and right attacks. Each of the game’s 11 fighters have patterns that need to be learned and attacks that need to be countered. Their health is represented by a bar on the top of the screen, like any fighting game you’ve ever played. In order to win the fight and move on to the next you must deplete your opponents health bar three times. Each time it will refill completely and they will attack with new moves that become harder to dodge and counter. Early on it will be very easy to defeat opponents and the difficulty ramps up very nicely over the course of the game’s 10 fights. It never became so hard that I had to repeatedly take on the same opponent. That’s not to say the game is a breeze. You will have to take on some of the opponents multiple times before learning just how they attack and the proper way to dodge these attacks.
Two additions to the game make it stand out from the game everyone compares it to. The first is the ability to jump during a fight. While it’s not a huge addition it does add one more layer to your ability to dodge attacks and it will be necessary to survive. The biggest difference is that skill tree that you can use to customize Gracius to your play style. After each fight you’re given three skill points to enhance your abilities on three different paths on the skill tree. These different paths are offense, defense and magic. They have different abilities that change up the style of play you can choose. Offensive abilities increase the amount of damage you can do, defensive ones give you the ability to take more damage and even regenerate some of your health. If you choose the path of magic you gain different abilities like creating pillars of fire to consume your opponents, and you can customize this any way you choose.
Rage of the Gladiator is also one of the best games to date visually on the WiiWare service. All of the fighters are rendered in really good 3D, though it does remind me of some of the earlier GameCube era titles. Ghostfire Games has used lighting to really good effect in this game. Fire radiates to everything around it casting an eerie orange glow to the opposing fighters and casting shadows where they feel appropriate. Looking through the crowd in the arena you see very few people who have been re-used and they all animate completely differently from each other. They even feel, unlike many games with large crowds, like they have some depth to them. They don’t just look like flat crowd sprites. The game also takes full advantage of the ability to do voice work. Each of the fighters is fully voiced and they all there is a lot of dialogue to each of them. You will hear a lot of the same phrases repeatedly, but the fights are usually over so quickly that you don’t get annoyed by it.
If you like arcade style fighting games, and you are a fan of Punch-Out!! then Rage of the Gladiator should not be passed over. There are a lot of fighters that will take a while to learn. I would say that in your first play through it will take you between three and four hours to complete. After that you have a challenge mode, much like Title Defense, that gives the fighters new, tougher abilities that will take even longer to figure out. So add some Wii Points to your system and download this game today. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
Final Score: 4/5 Above Average
- Review copy of the game provided by Ghostfire Games.
- Played through campaign once, completed 8 fights in challenge mode.
- Filled defensive skill tree and added some abilities from the others.