Certain games and experiences are so closely related to specific games that it’s hard to look past them. Very few see The Surge as its own thing beyond being Soulsborne clone, just like Nexomon: Extinction never made it past something that is reminiscent of Pokemon. This is easier for games where people can name multiple experiences, such as beat ‘em ups, allowing things like Castle Crashers to offer their own take. Wonder Blade is inspired less by the genre and more Castle Crashers specifically. With a similar art style, design mentality, and more, is it the spiritual successor fans have been waiting for or is it crushed under its ambition?
As you might’ve guessed based on the introduction, Wonder Blade struggles to find its own voice. It takes all of 10 seconds to see it wants to be Castle Crashers and it rides the line between homage and outright copying. From design elements to the overall tone, it doesn’t feel like Wonder Blade knows what it wants to do differently, so it feels like a fan wanting to make Castle Crashers the way they wanted.
This is, in all honesty, rather unfortunate. Once you learn Wonder Blade offers slight changes, like finishing moves, you get lost in a sea of wide-eyed expressions and silly enemies from Castle Crashers. One of the more obvious bits of inspiration leading to copying is the golem section at the start of the game.
In Wonder Blade, players ride a wide-eyed pig as a golem seemingly crawling after you as obstacles and lightning hinder your progression. This is shockingly similar to the rather iconic troll section in Castle Crashers. Instead of a golem, there is a troll, it still crawls towards you, broken rocks are replaced with logs and now you’re riding a pooping deer instead of a pig. The only difference I can find, just comparing the two sections, is Wonder Blade adds lighting, making the section more annoying and performance is quite a bit worse.
I could quite honestly keep picking apart small details and speculate how the developers were clearly inspired by this or that thing from the iconic game, but that also isn’t entirely fair to Wonder Blade. Regardless of how close of copy players decide it is, there is no denying it is fun to play.
Armed with an attack, magic, dodge, and jump command, you got to make the most of your skills to overcome a wide variety of threats. Unfortunately, most enemies tend to be on the dimmer side, though it makes things a bit easier to pick up and play. There isn’t an overwhelming need to master mechanics, get the best weapon drops or plan for these huge challenges, which is kind of nice. It’s also welcome how straightforward comboing and progression is. It has the same loose feel that made, as you might assume, Castle Crashers had.
Be it progressing, buying resources, obtaining a pet, or RNG drops, there is a lot to see and experience. Most of it has little to no impact on gameplay, just larger numbers or things that help you build towards however you play, with costumes that further this and offer a new look. Some stages will change things up, like the aforementioned golem or the cool dinosaur that can be mounted and breathe fire on enemies. It all makes for a mindless experience that, quite honestly, is more fun than you might think.
Wonder Blade Review – Verdict
Here is the challenge with Wonder Blade. It’s fun, easy to play, has a decent length, and enough going on to easily see value in it. However, it’s so closely inspired by Castle Crashers, which honestly does several things better despite being over a decade older. If I were, to be honest, unless you absolutely want new content, this is a game that doesn’t invoke that feeling you want to progress and see what is next, as much as reflect back on how awesome another game was. In more ways I wanted to play Castle Crashers Remastered over this, making it a hard sell. Yeah, it’s fun, cute, and a lot of great things, but it is also basically copying a proven model. For some, that is fine, especially if you just want more Castle Crashers, but for anyone else, it brings very little to the table.
[Editor’s Note: Wonder Blade was review on PlayStation 4 and a copy was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]