Golden Axe – Review

Video games set in fantasy lands have always been popular. There is something enthralling about controlling musclebound and bronzed barbarians, big-breasted Amazonian women and axe-wielding dwarves who can not only hack their way through masses of monsters but also use incredible magic when the situation warrants it. I mean, who doesn’t want to play a video game like that?

Titlescreen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Golden Axe is a side-scrolling arcade hack ‘n’ slash developed and published by Sega, and released for the arcade in 1989. Over the next few years, it was later ported to the following:

Mega Drive/Genesis

Master System

Sega CD

IBM

PC

Amiga

Atari ST

Amstrad CPC

Commodore 64

Turbo Grafix-16

Wonder Swan

ZX Spectrum

For this review, I replayed the Mega Drive version from 1990.

You can choose to fight as either Ax Battler, Tyrius Flare ot Gilius Thunderhead (Screenshot taken by the author)

Set in a high-fantasy land of Yuria, the evil Death Adder has risen to power. His soldiers are responsible for the massacre of thousands of peaceful villagers. Soon, he kidnaps the King of Yuria and his daughter and steals the Golden Axe. Thankfully, three warriors emerge who are capable of saving the kingdom:

Ax Battler – a mighty barbarian from the far plains. He seeks to avenge the death of his mother. He is brave and strong, and wields volcanic magic.

Tyrius Flare – an Amazonian from deep within the jungles whose mother and father were killed by Death Adder. She has skill with the sword and possesses immense magical power that can rain down fire upon her enemies.

Gilius Thunderhead – a dwarf who wields a mighty axe and uses his speed and cunning to defeat his enemies. He seeks to avenge the death of his brother at the hands of Death Adder. His magic ability sees bolts of lightning strike from the heavens.

Together, they have sworn to purge Yuria of the pestilence that is Death Adder’s army and rescue the king and princess.

My personal favourite is Gilius Thunderhead (Screenshot taken by the author)

To progress through the game, your heroes must battle through hordes of Death Adder’s ugly minions. Along the way, you will come across elves whom you can attack for magic and food. If things become too desperate, all three can use their individual magical powers to destroy their enemies. Galius is limited to three bars, Ax to four bars and Tyrius to six bars. Tyrius magic is the more powerful out of the three.

Some Bizzarians can come in very useful (Screenshot taken by the author)

The controls are slick and responsive, and the hit detection is spot on. The two main tactics you will use is to either hack and slash your way through or charge at your enemies from a distance and either kick, shoulder barge or headbutt them. So, it’s not just a case of button mashing. You need to change your strategy depending on the enemy you’re facing. Occasionally, you may capture a Bizzarian. These weird creatures consist of one weird pink creature with a beak that uses its tail to swipe at your enemies, or dragons who breathe fire (blue = flame, pink = fireball). Interestingly, thetail swiping Bizzarian looks similar to the one’s seen in Altered Beast. Could it be that Golden Axe and Altered Beast are in the same universe?

The graphics look fantastic, expecially the backgrounds which are very detailed. The sprites look great and are animated well. Interestingly, Gilius Thunderhead seems to appear as a shopkeeper in Shining in the Darkness. Even one of his sacks in the store contains a face of one of the elves from Golden Axe. Again, does this mean that Golden Axe, Altered Beast and Shining in the Darkness are all set in the same universe?

Naturally, the game can be played in one- or two-player mode. There are three difficulty settings: Easy, Normal and Hard, and you can adjust the number of life bars you begin from three to five. You also begin with three lives and three continues. Watch out though, in two-player mode as you can damage your co-op buddy.

Arcade mode sees you play through all the stages whereas Beginner mode only takes you to level 3 where you fight Death Adder Jr. Duel mode sees you fight in 12 consecutive battles against increasingly harder opponents.

I have a lot of memories with Golden Axe playing with my siblings. Again, it is a game that has given me many hours of fun, and I have returned to year after year, even though I can easily complete the game. When I play in two player mode, I don’t necessarily think it is about the challenge, but more trying to recapture an adventure with my younger brother.

Did I complete the game?

Yes, I have completed this game many times over the years on easy. Strangely, I don’t think I have ever played this game on the Normal or Hard settings. I must remedy that.

What the critics said:

Electronic Gaming Monthly: “The screen graphics are perfect, with exceptional detail in in both the characters and background. The game is almost exactly like the arcade, with endless fighting filling each round. Axe moves slow, but has all the hack and slash action you could ask for. Overall 29/40”.[1]

Mean Machines: “A flawless conversion that even improves on the arcade game! Superb! Overall 91%”.[2]

Game Machine: “The character sprites are all big and bold, with more than a rainbowful of colours. The pounding soundtrack only adds to the involving and inviting atmosphere of the game. Fast action, superb attention to detail in the fight sequences and some breathtaking magical spells makes Golden Axe a must for all arcade action fans. Overall 92%”.[3]

Zero: “Everything about this game is good; graphics, sound and playability. One-player is brill; two-player is unbeatable. Overall 94%”.[4]

Wizard: “Again, another first generation Sega game. Medieval action game. Overall C”.[5]

Sega Power: “Hack-‘n’-slash with all the frills of the classic coin-op. Two-player mode isn’t as smooth as expected and for one it’s easy to finish. Still, hugely playable and addictive! Overall 4/5”.[6]

My verdict:

“An excellent coin-op conversion. It looks great, plays great and the two-player mode will have you coming back again and again.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Golden Axe? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @Nicklovestogame.


[1] ‘Review: Genesis – Golden Axe’. Electronic Gaming Monthly. (March 1990). Issue 8:22.(https://retrocdn.net/images/6/6e/EGM_US_008.pdf Accessed 23rd September 2020)

[2] ‘Mega Drive Review – Golden Axe’. Mean Machines. (October 1990). Issue 1:42-4. (https://archive.org/details/Mean_Machines_Issue_01_1990-10_EMAP_Images_GB/page/n43/mode/2up Accessed 23rd September 2020).

[3] ‘Review: Mega Drive – Golden Axe’. Game Machine. (March 1990). Issue 28:30-1. (http://amr.abime.net/issue_841_pages Accessed 24th September 2020).

[4] ‘Review: Mega Drive – Golden Axe’. (April 1990) Issue 6:74. (https://archive.org/details/zero-magazine-06/page/n73/mode/2up Accessed 24th September 2020).

[5] ‘Game Reviews – Golden Axe’. Wizard. (January 1993). Issue 17:24. (https://archive.org/details/WizardMagazine017/page/n27/mode/2up Accessed 24th September 2020).

[6] ‘The Hard Line – Golden Axe.’ Sega Power. (October 1991). Issue 23:53. (https://retrocdn.net/images/8/89/SegaPower_UK_23.pdf Accessed 6th October 2020).

Chuck Rock – Review

He may not be the sharpest flint in pre-history, but Chuck Rock has a head as hard as a rock and a belly that is deadly. So get ready to navigate jungles and swamps, battle dinosaurs, and rescue your wife before Garry Glitter has his way with her. Unga Bunga!!!

Screenshot taken by author

Chuck Rock is a side-scrolling platform game developed by Core Design. It has been published and ported to many other platforms including:

  • Core Design – Atari St and Amiga (1991), Commodore 64 (1992), and Amiga CD32 (1994)
  • Krisalis Software – Acorn Archimedes (1991)
  • Virgin Interactive – Sega Megadrive (1991), Sega Master System (1993) and Game Gear (1992)
  • Sony Imagesoft – Sega Mega-CD (1993), SNES (1992) and Game Boy (1993).

I chose to review the Mega Drive version.

Screenshot taken by author

Set in a fantasy prehistoric Stone Age, Chuck’s wife, Ophelia has been kidnapped by Garry Glitter (no, not the disgraced pop star). Chuck must navigate his way through jungles, swamps, ice-capped mountains and caves, all the while evading various dinosaurs and prehistoric animals; or if you are feeling brave, barging them out the way with your belly, performing flying kicks, or picking up huge boulders and throwing them. I’d recommend using the latter two to kill your enemies.

Screenshot taken by author

The opening musical number on the title screen is awesome and I found myself delaying playing the game in order to listen to the song the whole way through. It seems that even though Chuck rock isn’t the sharpest tool in the box, he has aspired to lead singer of a rock band. Throughout the game the graphics and music are very good, and there’s plenty to catch the eye and make you think “That looks cool”.

Screenshot taken by author

The game is challenging with some tough levels. Oddly, the end bosses are all very easy to defeat with the exception of the third boss. The only boss that you need a strategy to defeat is the first boss, but other than that, it is simply a case of button mashing. Sadly this game lacks replay value, and once completed you may only wish to revisit it once or twice before turning your attention to the next challenge.

Screenshot taken by author

Did I complete the game?

Yes, I completed the game without the use of cheats. Sadly, Upon completing the game you are met another example of an anti-climatic ending to a game that deserved more.

What the critics said:

Mean Machines: An excellent and quite original platform game that’s highly recommended to all Megadrive players. Overall 91%.[1]

Mean Machines Index: “A brilliant, humorous Megadrive platform game with real character. Its graphics are out-of-this-world, the sound completely brilliant, and the game play pretty good too! A must have for your Megadrive collection. Overall 91%[2]

Sega Power: Groovy goings-on 100 million years B.C. with wild sonics and graphics as Chuck rescues his wife from the evil Garry Glitter. Overall 4/5.”[3]

Electronic Gaming Monthly: “The gameplay could use a little fine tuning, but it is still very fun to play. The graphics are comical and the music jams. Overall 7.75/10.[4]

Megazone: “Graphics wise this game is a hit (as good as the Amiga on the Mega Drive), the sound is pretty good (not quite up to the Amiga, but still pretty hot) and some imaginative sprite drawings have been added to this game. Overall 85%.[5]

GamePro: “The game’s worth the bucks for the music and graphics alone. From standpoint of challenge and gameplay, it’s middle of the road – not too hard and not too easy. Overall 4.6/5.”[6]

My verdict: “Unga Bunga – The game has nice graphics and is fun to play. The simple button mashing as oppose to a strategy needed to defeat end of level bosses, is a mark against this game. The lack of replay value means that once completed I doubt you will want to play through again.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Chuck Rock? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.


[1] ‘Review: Mega Drive – Chuck Rock’. Mean Machines. (June 1992). Issue 21:76-8. (https://ia600306.us.archive.org/2/items/mean-machines-magazine-21/MeanMachines_21_Jun_1992.pdf Accessed 10th December 2019).

[2] ‘Review: Mega Drive – Chuck Rock’. Mean Machines. (October 1992). Issue 1:137. (https://archive.org/details/mean-machines-sega-magazine-01/page/n135/mode/2up Accessed 16th February 2020).

[3] ‘The Hard Line – Review: Mega Drive – Chuck Rock’. Sega Power. (September 1993). Issue 46:96. (https://retrocdn.net/images/b/b9/SegaPower_UK_46.pdf Accessed 17th February 2020).

[4] ‘Review Crew: Genesis – Chuck Rock’. Electronic Gaming Monthly. (March 1992). 32:26. (https://retrocdn.net/images/3/35/EGM_US_032.pdf Accessed 19th February 2020).

[5] ‘Review: Mega Drive – Chuck Rock’. Megazone. (December 1992/January 1993). Issue 25:36. https://retrocdn.net/images/c/c8/Megazone_AU_25.pdf Accessed 19th February 2020).

[6] Feline Groovy. ‘Genesis Pro Review – Chuck Rock’. GamePro. (December 1991). 29:70. (https://findyourinnergeek.ca/2013/10/magazine-monday-46-gamepro-issue-29-december-1991/#gallery/5a5d0712b6d4562dc1b1bb0f692dfbf5/8195 Accessed 11th May 2020).