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Insanity's Blade (PC) artwork

Insanity's Blade (PC) review

"Completely nuts"

Insanity's Blade (PC) image

If you're searching for simple thrills, look no further than a video game starring a muscular, half-naked warrior. Insanity's Blade is just such a game. You take the role of Thurston, a buff dude out for revenge after a horde of zombies decimates his town and murders his family. Little dp they realize that Thruston, driven mad by the catastrophe, has survived. Worse than that, the combination of his lunacy and amazing physique allow him to burst an enemy with a single punch. I'm not talking about a light pop, either. All of your adversaries, from basic goons to tiny, floating critters, explode into a brilliant reddish mist of blood and gore.

For some folks, constantly decking foes could grow wearisome. Thankfully, Thurston not only stumbles upon handy swords and maces while on his journey, but he levels up and earns cash, too. Because the game's premise isn't crazy enough, our hero also acquires the ability to throw an endless supply of knives after his first level boost. That's not all. Toss a merchant a few thousand coins and your measly standard shot upgrades to a three- or five-way blast of fiery blades.

If you couldn't tell, Insanity's Blade oozes retro arcade elements. For starters, its control scheme consists of a couple of attack buttons and a jump function. That's all you need when dealing with endless swarms of pixelated brutes, really. Plus, the game showcases a properly aged presentation. Its mix of old school character models and environments with diverse color palettes are reminiscent of an early '90s coin-op title. Even the music has a certain "blasting from a cabinet speaker" quality to it. There's even a NeoGeo-esque "HOW TO PLAY" screen, complete with a control scheme.

Insanity's Blade (PC) image

Anyone who's ever played a sidescroller shouldn't need a tutorial screen, though. For the most part, Insanity's Blade is a straightforward romp wherein you annihilate anything that isn't human, whilst occasionally platforming and avoiding obstacles. Hell, there are some stages so primitive that all you do is advance to the right and mash the Attack button until you've reached the goal. Levels like those are good for cathartic action, but they aren't very memorable.

Insanity's Blade offers some more complex stages that offset the instances of repetitive slaughter, though. Most of these feature narrow, winding tunnels packed with creatures, or vertical climbs teeming with harpies. A single bump from one of these feathered gals will send you plummeting back to the bottom--or even into a killing ravine. Such segments aren't nearly as nerve-racking as the gauntlets of instant death traps, which are still enjoyable despite the crushing challenge they provide. Of course, the campaign also features its share of subtle throwbacks to classic sidescrollers. One area, for instance, features a constantly shifting wind and a handful of pitfalls, a la Ninja Gaiden II. Don't worry, though; this iteration of the concept isn't nearly as frustrating.

Sadly, Insanity's Blade also sports a few challenges that aren't so lovable. One that drove me nuts involved crawling through a narrow tunnel populated by a dozen or so chubby demons. Each encounter with one of these beasts is a tedious, drawn out battle. I'd rain knives on one of them and he'd refuse to keel over. After finally executing the critter, I'd amble forward a few meters, only to find another fiend waiting for me. Repeat this for an entire level and try not to pass out.

Insanity's Blade (PC) image

On the flip side, there are some stages so brief that you wonder why they were even included in the campaign at all. One called "The Sunken City" features a short walk to an elevator-like structure. While descending, weak foes continually spawn and perish just as quickly. A minute or so later, you disembark and enter a chamber with a massive door that shuts behind you. Just as the situation heats up, the post-level narrative kicks in. My first thought was that I played some transitional area or a bonus stage. Nope. Upon re-examining the world map, The Sunken City is indeed listed as a standard level.

There's more to effective nostalgia titles than mere impersonation, of course. As a developer, you've got to hit your audience with memorable content, even if it means going balls-out zany after beginning your tale with heartache. Insanity's Blade's developers must have realized this. Its campaign may kick off with your family burning alive, but it also features a side quest where you search for the legendary weapon "Cock Puncher." Perhaps you'll also forget the prelude's horrified citizens when you enter the first level and ride a green skeleton downhill while shooting caustic phlegm at opposing uglies.

Insanity's Blade (PC) image

The insanity doesn't let up there, either. Later on, you mount a skeletal dragon and blast other undead adversaries out of the sky, shmup style. Eventually, you run afoul of a massive sturgeon-like zombie fish, complete with exposed ribs and ragged ribbons of meat dangling from its flanks. One branching locale pits you against a company of sorcerers guarding an enormous ghoul who fires lasers from his eye. On top of that, he also possesses an elongated optic nerve that allows him to flail that lethal eye about. Perhaps the strangest sight, though, comes while searching for an ancient healer who lost her mind when her fellow citizens drowned in a flood. Racked with grief, the woman shut herself and her pals' corpses in a temple, where she magically reanimated them. Now, she awaits Thurston in an antediluvian throne room tricked out with colored lights. Her zombified minions wait by her side, ready to show off their sick dance moves. Believe me, I'm not exaggerating this one bit.

Insanity's Blade is a faux-retro title determined to stand out from the crowd. It accomplishes this feat by sending you through a wild adventure consisting of ridiculous events and face-breaking yet fair challenges. The game also remembers to set the action in well designed levels that help accentuate its rudimentary combat. It's not the kind of game you want to initiate if you're looking for depth, complex characters or modern concepts. If, like me, you occasionally enjoy pretending it's still the '90s and that sidescrolling action titles are as relevant as ever, then by all means add Insanity's Blade to your Steam library.


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Staff review by Joseph Shaffer (April 29, 2016)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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