Engage in gladatorial combat in the Colosseum

Review of Colosseum on XBLIG: Try
Fighting game buffs will enjoy the complex mechanics of this hack-and-slash, but casual gamers may be turned off.

Colosseum plants itself firmly between hack-and-slash games like God of War and combo-heavy fighting games like Dead or Alive.  In this game, you take on the role of a gladiator who must battle swarms of lesser enemies to be considered worthy to fight his rival one-on-one in the colosseum.

The fighting element is varied, and controls are tight.  The game boasts four different fighting styles (dual wielding, mace, spear, and sword/shield), each with its own play style and combos.  (The game tracks which style is used to complete each level on each difficulty level, giving completionists an extra challenge.)  In addition, successful attacks earn Rage, which can be spent to perform four different special abilities—healing, pulling, pushing, and executing a massive attack.

The 3D graphics look to be cell-shaded, giving it an extra bit of polish.  The game’s six arenas all have different themes (ruins, a rainy field, a volcano, etc.), and are well detailed.  There are occasional in-game cutscenes with comic-style speech bubbles that add a light-hearted tone.

It’s clear that the game mechanics are targeted at hardcore action game enthusiasts.  Attacks are performed with the right thumbstick, allowing for the possibility of forward, right, left, and charge attacks.  Triggers and bumpers are used to block, dodge, and run.  The A, B, X, and Y buttons are used to execute Rage maneuvers, fueled by successful attacks against opponents.  It’s quite a bit to take in, and it doesn’t help that timing is important to execute certain moves.  Even the initial tutorial (which was otherwise very thorough) was frustrating; it required me to perform some complex dodges and timed blocks before I could go on to the rest of the game, but didn’t provide any extra help on learning the timings.

This is my only real problem with the game, but I’m a lightweight when it comes to games that require precise timing or reactions.  I button-mashed my way through Easy difficulty with ease, but it wasn’t much fun—I could survive by spamming the same combos repeatedly and tossing out the occasional heal or special attack.  I wasn’t required to block or dodge much, which was good—trying to coordinate between blocks, attacks, and chasing down enemies was complicated. Medium was slightly beyond my skill level (I could usually survive 3 of the 5 waves of enemies in each level), and I didn’t dare try Hard.

Overall, I give Colosseum a Try.  Casual gamers should skip it entirely, as there’s not much here for them.  However, fighting game fanatics should definitely put this game on their list—between the complexity of combos and defense and the four unique fighting styles, there’s plenty of challenge to be had.

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