Tiny Barbarian DX: Episode 2

words manifested by: AJ Johnson

A game by StarQuail Games for PC, originally released episodically in 2013-2014.
Tiny Barbarian DX Episode 2, Ruins of Xanadu, picks up where the first chapter left off, with the tiny barbarian and the rescued maiden lying in a cave near a roaring fire. Then, the bikini-clad woman wakes up to see the barbarian snoring away, and she goes over to try to wake him up. When he goes on sleeping, she kicks him in the gut and walks out of the cave. Your first action is to wake up the barbarian with a button press and then head out of the cave, which is situated in the side of a cliff.

The opening area is all about ascent, as you climb vines to make your way up the cliff face, and periodically enter caves to complete platforming challenges and move ever upward. Outside, a long fall usually means instant death as you drop off the bottom of the screen. Within the caves, however, you are more likely to land on solid ground and lose a bit of progress… and sometimes you can grab a horizontal vine on your way down, which lets you halt your descent and recover to your previous position.

Caves are filled with a number of dangers, including rocks and rocks fall straight down, requiring players to run under them or time their jumps properly to get over them. Occasionally, you encounter falling spiked platforms that will smash you to bits if they land on you, but you must also use them to move forward. When one of these platforms hits solid ground, it imbeds itself in the rock and lets you use it as a stepping stone to reach slightly greater heights. When falling, the player must time his jump precisely to land on it and then quickly jump away before it falls off the bottom of the screen.

Eagles and snakes from the first chapter make a return, but the game is largely populated by entirely new creatures, including plants that spit poison dust, agile gorillas that chase you through the environment, larval creatures that spout caustic slime, and wobbly slime mummies that burst open to reveal more larval creatures. The game is also packed with a wide variety of bee-type creatures, including honeybees, dashing hornets that fire stinger projectiles, and some strange hybrid bee creatures that can fly around, walk on two legs, and fire some sort of weapon.

The honeybee is the most interesting of these creatures, as you can actually jump on the back of one of these giant bees and ride it around. Players have the option of simply jumping on a bee, or whacking it with a sword swipe to stun it first (though a second strike will kill it). From there, holding the JUMP button causes the bee to ascend, and letting off the button causes it to slowly drop back down, while the player has full control of its movement to the left or right. To dismount, the player must press UP and JUMP.

Bees are used throughout the game in a variety of challenges. For one, players must often navigate obstacle-packed environments filled with poison-spitting plants and falling rocks, and getting hit knocks the barbarian off of his buzzing mount. At that point, he may remount the same creature or go back to the hive to grab another. While riding the bee, pressing DOWN extends the bee’s stinger and allows the player to smash through thorny vines and attack enemies. The barbarian can also swing his sword while riding bee-back, allowing him to attack enemies directly.

When you reach the top of the cliff, you find the bikini lady attempting to fight off a swarm of bees with a sword, but a gorilla takes notice of her – with a heart appearing above his head – and he dashes in after her. The gorilla grabs the maiden King Kong-style and runs off into the jungle, leaving you to give chase.

Soon you find yourself running for your life as a rolling boulder chases you through the jungle. Fortunately, the boulder doesn’t kill you instantly if it hits you, but it does toss you back a bit, pushing you a good ways ahead of the rolling death rock. As you run, you have to make your way over and under obstructions and past enemies, which the rock easily crashes through.

Eventually, you reach a dead end, which lets you climb up and out of the way so that you can drop down behind the rock and continue your descent… only to find another rock rolling after you, this time covered in poison-spewing plants!

In the depths of the jungle, the player uses vines to swing back and forth to reach new areas. The barbarian can slide up or down the vines for a better position, with the greatest leaps performed by sliding all the way down to the end of the vine and then timing your button press properly to send yourself sailing into the air.

Gorillas chase you through many of these areas as well, and they are excellent jumpers and climbers, allowing them to reach almost any area that you can. And they can attack from a distance by throwing brown rocks… er, well, probably not rocks… since they seem to be manufacturing them from their own bodies…

Tougher vine jumps incorporate eagles as well, requiring that the player dispatch enemies beforehand, or make some daring midair sword slashes. As before, missing a jump often drops you down into a previous area to make a new attempt.

The first boss you face – in an homage to Donkey Kong – is a barrel-rolling gorilla. The player must complete several sequences where he avoids barrels by jumping over them, running under them, and eventually dodging bouncing barrels while climbing vines. At the end of this sequence, the barbarian faces off against the giant primate in a locked arena. The gorilla jumps around the room to various platforms and tosses more barrels at you, and just when you think you’ve won and saved the girl once more… she is abducted again, this time by a bee, furthering her purpose as a damsel in distress.

From here, players take flight once more, this time in a forced scrolling section with obstacles to dodge, and eventually gorillas flying around in machines equipped with turrets. There’s even a “shoot the core”-style boss encounter at the end, followed by a lengthy forced scrolling platforming sequence over an insta-death drop off as you make your way through an airship.

Eventually, you find yourself underground, making your way through Egyptian ruins and surrounded by insectoid enemies before facing off against another boss creature, this time of the insect variety. Some of the more complex challenges in this area center on dispatching swarms of hybrid man-bees and using a limited bee supply to fly through dangerously tight corridors that are packed with enemies.

Once the player reaches the end of this challenging sequence, he finds himself facing off against the episode’s final boss, followed by another “to be continued” message, teasing the next episode.

Episode 2 also introduces a few new options that retroactively apply to the first episode. The most important change is the auto-grab option that lets the barbarian automatically grab vines and ledges without the need for the player to press UP. The option is disabled by default but may be toggled on in the Options menu. This allows the player to more easily save himself from a long fall and make easier leaps to distant ledges. The second new option is largely cosmetic, as it allows the player to flex the barbarian’s muscles (this was originally only available as an idle animation). Technically, this move causes damage to nearby enemies, but sword attacks are far more effective at dispatching enemies than body builder posing.

Tiny Barbarian DX was developed by StarQuail. For more information about the studio and its earlier works, be sure to check out our full-length feature on Tiny Barbarian DX.

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