Axe, Bow & Staff Review - Side-scrolling fun for everyone

Axe, Bow and Staff is a unique and fun side-scroller that is only hindered a small lack of polish.

One year ago, I wrote my first article here on GameSkinny. The past year has been quite a magical experience where I have learned much. One of the highlights from the last year is that I have gotten to play and review some unusual, unique, and -- at times -- strange indie games. Chinese-based developer Clewcat Games' title Axe, Bow & Staff is certainly no exception.

Axe, Bow & Staff is a side-scroll action game with RPG elements. It released on September 29th on Steam. It is a fun title with a very zany type of humour. While it can be played both Single Player and Multiplayer, the latter is where the game is truly in its element.

An unlikely heroic trio

Axe, Bow and Staff are the three main characters of the game. They are incidentally named after their specialty in weapons. Axe is the tallest dwarf in his mining clan. Due to his unusual height, he was unsuitable for mining and decided to explore the world above. He likes hot dogs, thinking they are made of actual dogs and still can't tie his shoelaces.

While Axe may be the tallest dwarf in his clan, Bow suffers from quite the opposite. She is the shortest elf in her village. Due to her height, she was only ever able to gather berries with the children. Not content with the idea of babysitting children for the rest of her life she left the village in hopes of becoming a ninja. She is yet to find a sensei in Nenjootsoo (ninjutsu).

As for Staff, he is a bit of a hypochondriac. He is allergic to almost everything including, magic, nature, rodents, goblins, leaves, twigs and stones. As a hypo-sensitive wizard, he likes to stay behind the bigger heroes. He enjoys folding origami on his days off. He also loves cats, which he is also allergic to.

While on their own adventures, the three heroes happen to fall into a series of caverns. They run into each other and decide to adventure together. Little do they realise what dangers and foes await them. Beyond that, there isn't much of a story to the game.

Basically, we have three unlikely heroes that quite literally stumble their way into adventure. They equally stumble into an evil adversary who they happen to unintentionally anger. Their main goal is to then defeat this evil being. The plot to the game is fitting with that of the three characters themselves.

It is silly, humorous, and intentionally a bit haphazard. As for the characters themselves, they are adorable. It isn't often a developer plans on having three characters who are utterly flawed, each in their own unique ways. It gives them character and their own personalities that you can't help be love.

Fun gameplay designed for playing with friends and family

Axe, Bow & Staff can be played in Single Player but it is designed for Multiplayer. In Single Player, you can switch between the three heroes as you please while the A.I controls the other two. In multiplayer, each player controls one of the characters.

This can be done using controllers and the keyboard. For example, one player could be using the keyboard and the other two controllers. Alternatively, two players can use the keyboard if there is only one controller available. The goal of each level is to reach the end.

To do this you must navigate your character of choice through obstacles including enemies, rocks, gates, bear traps, pitfalls and more. Generally, there are three paths, one for each character. At times, however, to avoid obstacles, one character may have to go onto the same path as another.

During these moments, only the character in the front may use its attacks or abilities. For example, in the picture above, only Bow and Staff would be able to use attacks. Axe would only be able to attack if moved into another lane or the front of the one he is in.

Each of the three characters has their own abilities and skills. Axe has melee attacks and can block attacks using a shield. Bow can attack from a range and jump. Staff can teleport enemies and traps to different paths along with dispelling negative effects like slow down and poison.

At the end of each world, you must battle a boss. Each boss is unique having their own attacks. Each must be fought differently and often requires a combined effort the three heroes to defeat. It gives the game a sense of teamwork. The players must work together keeping each advantage and disadvantage in mind to succeed.

At the end of each level, you are rated out of three stars. The rating depends on how many coins you collect throughout the level. The more coins you obtain the more stars you get. The stars are then used to unlock optional levels including an additional boss and a racing mini-game.

The ranking system and additional levels and mini-games add a few nice and fun features to the game. It gives even more reason for you to attempt to get as many coins as possible. Coins can be used to buy new items, weapons, and accessories at the shop to help you in each level. These include healing potions and reviving chalices. 

At the end of each level, the characters gain experience. Every level the character gains more health and every second level they can learn a new skill. This RPG element adds another layer of depth to the game as different skills are useful in certain levels.

Overall the gameplay is unique and a lot of fun. I would advise playing it with friends and family over solo. At times playing alone can be very difficult and lead to more frustration than fun. It is by all means possible to finish on your own, but to get the most out of it multiplayer is a must.

Beautiful visuals with a fitting soundtrack

The visuals are absolutely beautiful and that is coming from someone who isn't a massive fan of pixelated graphics. There is a variety of different areas to explore, each with their own environments. They include forest, cave, swamp, ice and more.

Each area has its own soundtrack. The music to each zone fits perfectly and helps to create a wonderful atmosphere. The two of these blending together with such harmony really helps draw you into the game. It doesn't take long before you start humming along with the catchy soundtrack.

Some polish is needed

While the game is generally really good, it is lacking polish is some areas. There are a number of bugs and issues in the game. While minor, they do need addressing. The music and sound are extremely loud. The first time I turned on the game, they nearly blew my eardrums.

When adjusting the volume, lowering the music by anything more than a quarter completely cuts it out. The only way to get it working again is to increase the volume. Certain levels have no music at all while in others the sound becomes choppy.

The difficulty of the game is very erratic. I found that some levels were difficult while others were not as opposed to there being a gradual increase in challenge. I feel that the game's difficulty should be lowered a bit when playing solo. There are times in the game where it becomes more frustrating than fun while playing alone.

This isn't helped by the character A.I either. When controlled by the A.I., a character that hits an obstacle often won't change paths -- resulting in them dying until the next checkpoint. The A.I is also not very combat efficient making some bosses --especially the final one -- extremely difficult when soloing.

Sometimes when switching lanes, the character will get stuck in between the two and are unable to move. This results in instant death for that character. Finally, I feel the slime enemy in the swamp needs adjusting. During these levels you only control Bow. If she is hit by a slime it is instant death.

Most of these are minor issues, almost to the point of me nit-picking. I feel, however, that they do affect the overall enjoyment of the game and do need looking into by the developer.

A fun title that everyone can enjoy

Despite the issues mentioned above, Axe, Bow & Staff is a good game. Not only that but it is one that everyone of all ages can enjoy. It is a game that encourages getting friends and family to work together in order to succeed. Few games these days do this on a level that any can enjoy.

It is a fun and unique game. The visuals are pretty and the soundtrack is excellent. It is a silly game but is intended to be with an equally as child-like humour. Overall there is certainly a lot more to like about the game than dislike.

If the developer fixes the issues mentioned above, this would be an absolute gem. If it is a rainy day outside and you want to get the family together for a fun activity, there is no better game that this.

Axe Bow & Staff is available to buy on Steam for €9.99. It is currently on sale for €6.99 until October 8th.

Disclaimer: A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Our Rating
Axe, Bow and Staff is a unique and fun side-scroller that is only hindered a small lack of polish.
Reviewed On: PC
Published Oct. 9th 2016
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