What is this sorcery?! I don't do game reviews!
OR DON'T I?!
Yeah, normally I don't. But having just beaten (and technically... lost?) X-Blades, I figured it'd be worth it to do a short review of the game.
I picked up X-Blades in a cheap-O bundle at BundleStars, and of that bundle, it was the only game that I actually got any play time out of. So, while it clearly suffers from self-esteem issues, at least it did manage to stand out in the sub-par crowd.
Of special note is that the engine that runs this game is so smooth that even my crappy laptop was able to run it on max graphics with absolutely no lag or glitches (for comparison, my laptop was barely able to play Arkham Asylum on the lowest setting). That taken into account, the graphics are gorgeous... as is the, uh, protagonist.
In X-Blades, we get to play as Ayumi, who has some, uh, wardrobe complications. This game is pretty commonly considered the product of the mind of a 13-year-old boy, and while that sounds like it may be a mixed bag, I actually really enjoyed the game. While the amount of storyline is pretty limited, it has a decent amount of replay value so I got quite a bit of fun out of it.
It's an action game, first and foremost, and has been likened to Devil May Cry (for the basic combat style) and Tomb Raider (for the fact that Ayumi is an intrepid treasure hunter). You attack using Ayumi's dual-wielded gunblades, which can be used as... y'know, guns, or blades. There are a few combos you can do with them but they're not worth how hard they are to pull off, BUT, you can purchase upgrades to your guns that make them do cool stuff, like shoot twice as fast, ricochet, or build up for massive blasts (all of these settings will end up saving your bacon eventually). In addition, Ayumi has access to elemental magic, and as she builds up her Rage she can pull of various single-target attacks, area effects, or self-buffs.
The first thing I noticed about this game (besides Ayumi's cute little ass) was the movement, which actually sets it apart. I had to turn down the mouse sensitivity because Ayumi is so outrageously fast and sensitive – on default settings, my puny human eyes were incapable of actually tracing her sudden movements, and she scrambled around the screen like an electrocuted ferret, swiveling so quickly that her hair can't even catch up. Once I tuned that down a bit (to “manageably fast” instead of “f***ing insane”), the combat system is amazingly fluid and quick. Ayumi has impressive acrobatic and sprinting skills, and her ability to hover in mid-air while she attacks makes her extremely maneuverable against ground-based opponents.
X-Blades is filled with so many upgrades that, on the easy setting, you'll never get enough souls to actually buy them all. Between the gem pieces you have to locate to unlock new combos, to the new elemental spells, to the ammunition upgrades, to the various miscellaneous effects like increasing Ayumi's health regeneration, you'll never be without something to spend souls on from the beginning to the very end.
So, into the game itself. Y'know, the story. Well, the story sucks – but let's be honest, if you actually look at the cover to this game and think that it's gonna have dazzling voice-acting and a stunning storyline, you probably deserve to be disappointed. The voice actress portraying Ayumi is decent, if not exactly good, but the supporting cast members (not much here – The Light, The Dark, and Jay) are all absolutely awful. The story is as straightforward and unimaginative as stories get, and basically serves as a vessel to get you from combat stage to combat stage. The combat stages, though, are pretty fun – there's always new stuff to look for, always new enemy types, and all those different enemies require different elemental attacks and strategies to kill them. Some stages may have “monster factories” that pump out critters until you kill them. Some may have durable bosses, some bosses link their life force to mooks, some monsters fly, and some monsters even create geometrical formations around you to deal out massive damage. They all have their weaknesses and there are also smashable crystals to help you out along the way.
So yeah, while I'm a little embarrassed to have liked it, I have to say that I honestly did. It manages to present a straightforward grind without getting too repetitive, has some decent eye candy, has lots of neat upgrades and lots of hateable monsters. You shouldn't spend more than five dollars on it – but at the same time, you probably won't end up having to. I didn't.
So if you're looking for a fun, mostly-mindless, fluidly playing game, I give X-Blades 6 out of 10. If you have a crappy laptop like I do, and can't necessarily play the better action games, I'll give it a 7 out of 10.