Golden Axe hasn't aged well; it's just boring and frustrating to play.

User Rating: 5 | Golden Axe PC

When I was younger, beat-em-ups were all the rage. They were popularised by the Arcades, but later were ported over to the home consoles. One of the first PC games I ever played was Golden Axe and it was a child-hood classic of mine. Sadly, playing these kind of games these days really show their age, as Golden Axe hasn't aged well; it's just boring and frustrating to play.

There are three characters to choose from; Ax Battler (a male with a sword), Tyris (female with daggers), and Gilius (Dwarf with Axe). You hack and slash through several stages, taking down a variety of humanoids, giants, armoured knights and skeletons on your way to defeat the antagonist Death Adder.

There are three buttons: attack, magic and jump. You can chain attacks together on successful hits and can end in a throw if you are close enough. Basically, you can do a normal slash, jump and slash, running-jump and slash, evade and slash, in addition to magic which costs vials. You cannot block and moving vertically is quite sluggish.

On your character's magic gauge, it shows the number of vials required to cast the next level magic spell which varies per character. If your magic gauge is full, collecting magic has no effect. You may be tempted to use your magic when your gauge is full, but casting magic uses all vials, so its beneficial to learn where you can acquire magic to effectively plan ahead and make the most out of your magic.

In each stage, you defeat the on-screen enemies until the "Go" instruction appears, and then you move a few yards where more enemies will appear. Eventually, you will face off against a stronger enemy or a gang of enemies who act as the boss of that stage.

Between levels, your character will be shown resting until he is disturbed by some gnome thieves. In this bonus stage, you get a chance to kick them up the back-side so they drop magic vials or health restoration food. These gnomes appear throughout the main levels as well and are the only enemy that drops any sort of power up.

Some enemies seem to keep their distance if you are already engaged by an enemy, but others are troublesome and like to surround you. If you back-off them, they love to run at you and it can be quite tricky to react and dodge them. A major problem I found is that it's difficult to line yourself up to attack since most enemies love mirroring your movements; you can end up moving up and down in unison, resulting in a stalemate. Overall, the battle system ends up feeling like you essentially just take it in turns hitting each other.

Some enemies are riding mounts, mainly dragons which you can take control yourself; although it can be quite tricky to stay on them because enemies love to charge you down almost instantly.

The sound effects are atrocious, with many samples sounding like they were recorded way too loud so they are a complete distorted mess. The dragon's fire sample sounds like it was recorded from a human saying "aaaaaagh".

In the Options, you can configure how many health bars per life are available; from 3 to 5. You have three lives to a credit, and you have four credits in total. It sounds like a lot, but in reality poses a great challenge. There are only about 30 minutes of game-play on a successful run from start to finish, but it can be tiring work to get there.

Once I got used the mechanics of the game, I did enjoy it a lot more than I did initially. However, you just end up feeling like you are cheating the system when you understand the AI behaviour and use it to your advantage e.g. making the enemies charge and moving out of the way so they plummet off the map. Golden Axe is pretty dated and doesn't offer much alongside today's modern games. Personally, I would say its just worth keeping in your memories rather than trying to relive it, otherwise you may be very disappointed.