When I spent $14.99 on the PS4 version of Strider, I had a couple of thoughts in mind.
First and foremost, I wanted to play a new game on my brand new next-gen console. We are definitely in the middle of a next-generation (Current-generation? New-generation?) drought, which is to be expected. I saw an excuse to use, what I believe, is the best controller I have ever used in the Dualshock 4. I take every chance I get to use the Dualshock 4, as it is the first controller designed with freakish humans in mind (you hear that Giannis Antetokounmpo?). I have giant hands, so the extended grip handles of the Dualshock 4 are much appreciated.
Secondly, I absolutely adore platformers of any type. I feel that this genre shows more skill than most others, as the precision needed is near unmatched. I would rather play a perfectly balanced precision platformer than the newest AAA shooter 99 out of 100 times (Destiny is that 1 time – my interest could not be higher). When I heard that Strider’s controls were tight and balanced, I knew that I had to give it a chance.
I had no idea I would have as much fun with the 5-6 hours of button-spamming adventure as I would. My absolute favorite aspect of Strider is how fair it is to the player. I played through the game on normal (as I do whenever I hear difficulty spikes are present), and I got as much out of each encounter as I put in.
Each time one presses the primary attack button, Strider swings his Cypher (essentially a light saber/katana hybrid) one time. The power of the base attack is completely dependent on how well you can push a button; there is no wait time between attacks, it’s absolutely up to you.
This, combined with the special attacks known as Options, forms a surprisingly rich and balanced attack set. Whenever I died in Strider, my first thought was never “What the hell just happened?!” or “That was cheap as hell!” I instantly analyzed where I went wrong (be it a missing slide or misuse of Options) and corrected that mistake. Nothing agitated me in this game; instead my missteps only drove me to improve.
Where Strider really shines are in its boss battles and Metroidvania aspects. Any sudden difficulty spikes in the game come during boss battles (as they should, let’s be honest here). I find that a crucial aspect of a fair, yet difficult action-platformer is the necessity of learning from your mistakes.
If you need to die a couple of times to learn the nuances of a particular boss, then so be it. Never was this more evident than in the second battle with the appropriately named bounty hunter Solo. Not to spoil anything, but Solo has one particular attack in this second encounter that will frustrate you until you have that ah-ha moment.
Ultimately, the highlight of the game for me was the final boss battle. I can't describe what it entails without spoiling the game for you, so you’re just gonna have to take my word on this one.
Let’s just say it takes everything you’ve done in the game up to that point and turns it on its head.
In terms of its Metroidvania aspects, Strider places emphasis on exploration without ever really having to do so. Granted, it mentions that exploring is a good idea in the occasional loading menu, but this is something that you should absolutely find out on your own. I cannot stress it enough, use your map! If you do not collect the recharge upgrades, health upgrades, and energy upgrades, your potential for frustration goes through the roof.
Luckily, Strider does a great job of creating that “Wait what was over there?” feeling inside of you with its endless side-passages and dimmed-out map areas. Simply put, if you aren’t exploring the dystopian society of Kazakh, you are playing Strider incorrectly.
This isn’t to say the game is perfect. I thought that the story made absolutely no sense at all. There wasn’t really an explanation as to who you are, what you were doing in the city of Kazakh, and why you had to defeat any these people in the first place. However, if you are looking for something to play on your brand new PS4 or XBox One (or even your last-generation consoles), you can do a lot worse than Strider.