Strider is the sort of man who flies a hang glider into a warzone. He doesn’t get bogged down in the details, preferring instead to slice first and ask questions later. His latest hack-and-slash action game is the same way. Without preamble or pretext, you’re dropped straight into the action, cleaving through one hapless guard after another. Strider’s capacity for carnage is boundless, and the acrobatic precision with which he dispatches his foes makes him a delight to control. Right away, you have everything at your disposal to feel like a one man army, and as your arsenal grows, so too will your enjoyment of this well-crafted game.
Simply being Strider feels great. The way he moves from running to sliding to climbing a wall to bisecting a robot is so seamless that you feel like a tempest on the battlefield. From the arc of his jump to the range of his slide, all of Strider’s movements are perfectly measured to give you complete command of the action. In the beginning you can do little more than jump and slash, but by exploring the world and defeating powerful bosses, Strider unlocks new techniques for his arsenal. Reflecting bullets, throwing knives, and summoning a eagle made of pure energy are just some of the powers you earn, and those powers expand your fighting repertoire in new and interesting ways. Instead of mindlessly cutting down the competition, you could send your eagle to intercept airborne foes while you take out those on the ground. Alternatively, you could employ a long-range strategy using the throwing knives and reflection cypher to dispatch foes from afar.
Whichever you choose, juggling these powers together is a real delight, and cartwheeling through the air while dispensing death at 360 degrees is extremely empowering. There are plenty of locked doors to be found early in your quest with no means of entry--this is the game’s way of teasing you with the promise of new powers--and they grant you no choice but to pass them by. As you unlock new powers, referred to as cyphers, you are able to return to these spots and open the doors associated with your new cypher. This can help you advance along the main storyline or reward you with hidden unlockables such as concept art and new costumes.
While Strider’s world is filled with surprises, the backdrop itself is disappointingly drab. The game looks slick and clean, with a subtle scanline effect that harkens back to the ninja’s arcade roots. However, the moment you touch down you’re greeted with a futuristic, industrial aesthetic that rarely relents as you progress. Gloomy pipes and heavy machinery follow you wherever you go, splashed with all the browns, greys, and whites you can handle. Admittedly, this style has the benefit of making Strider--in all his crimson-scarfed glory--pop against the background, but even so, more variety in the different arenas would have been welcome.
Certain enemies also sport a splash of color to indicate a weakness to a particular cypher. Against such a foe, Strider must switch to the appropriate cypher and use it to disable the enemy’s defenses--most often a color-coded shield--before dispatching him. These enemies help keep fights feeling dynamic as they force you to mix up your tactics and utilize Strider to his fullest. One cypher, the cold cypher, does rise above the rest with its incredibly powerful ability to quickly freeze enemies. Frozen enemies can take no action, and are locked in place for several seconds. Other cyphers add to the enjoyable chaos of Strider's combat, but the cold cypher does the opposite. It simplifies encounters and feels more like a crutch than a compliment to your other abilities.
Once you finish Strider’s main adventure, you can try your hand at the game’s challenge modes. These challenges come in two varieties: survival and beacon run. Survival challenges are all about testing your combat prowess. You’re granted a pre-selected loadout of cyphers and turned loose against wave after wave of enemies. Beacon runs, on the other hand, are all about speed and agility. Your goal is to pass through each of the beacons on your way to the goal, all the while navigating a trap-and-enemy-infested environment. This mode is especially welcome since Strider is so fun to control and the main game rarely tests your platforming capabilities. When a challenge is completed, you are graded on your performance and can compare your stats against others on challenge-specific leaderboards.
From the moment you embark on your journey right up until the final deathblow, Strider is a blast to play. Controlling this agile ninja feels empowering right out of the gate, and each new upgrade brings with it an enjoyable new way to engage your foes. While his world is a little drab there’s still plenty to explore even after the job is done. Strider is fun, pure and simple, and serves as a fitting revival of a classic video game hero.