Brian Tarran slices and dices his way through the 2014 remake of the ninja action adventure.
If the 2014 remake of Strider was a car, it would be a mid-range sports model. It has precision handling, a sleek, minimal design and it goes like a rocket. But the overall package lacks a distinctive personality.
Hit the start button and you’re off. There’s no intro movie to speak of in Strider; no Metal Gear-style set-up to explain why an augmented ninja is making a lone infiltration of a fictional Soviet state. There’s just Strider in his glider, and – once on terra firma – a procession of waypoints that need to be reached.
Some of those waypoints lie behind locked doors and can only be opened once Strider has upgraded his arsenal: a new elemental addition to his sword, perhaps; a powered-up attack mode; some handy throwing knives, maybe.
It teases the player with the prospect of a Metroidvania adventure. Expectations are raised to Shadow Complex-like proportions – but these are swiftly cut to ribbons, like so many of the adversaries Strider has to face.
Strider doesn’t have time to waste on extraneous details like world-building, characterisation and pacing. It moves forward (and sometimes backwards) at one speed – fast – through a generic videogame landscape of rooftops, ruins, military bases, sewers and airships.
None of the locations are bad, per se. Just bland. The urge to explore is not strong with this one. There are secret areas to discover, which occasionally chuck interesting environmental puzzles at you. But whether the rewards are worth it depends on how much of a completionist you are. Personally, I found unlocking character notes and story details to be a waste of time. They remain unread in the front-end menu, the only place they are accessible from.
Unlocked costumes saw more use, as did health and energy boosts – but most of the latter were found en route to some objective or another.
The objectives themselves are uninspired. Go here. Collect this. Beat that. Of course, there are hordes of enemies to work through as you sprint your way from one side of the (sizeable) map to the other. Regular troops offer little in the way of resistance. Repeated stabs of the primary attack button will carve a route through them with ease. Shield-bearing enemies require a charged-up power attack but, again, pose no real risk.
Mechs offer a challenge however, requiring a mix of powers, attack styles and swift movement to take down. There are several different types of mechs in the game, and the first time you meet them, each is presented as a mini-boss. Victory is hard won in these initial encounters, but they serve to benchmark the evolution of your combat abilities. The next time you meet them, after a few power-ups, the challenge has lessened. By the end of the game, you’re plowing through them with ease.
Indeed, there’s a general ease to the Strider experience overall. Easy to play, easy to like, easy to lose a few hours to. It’s a hard game to love, though. At no point since completion have I found myself hankering to return to it, to mop up collectibles. It’s an average game through and through. Polished, presentable and perfectly playable. Just lacking in personality.