Platform(s): PC, Nintendo Switch
Genre: Mecha-laden 2D platformer

While 2D platformers on PC from indie companies with 2D pixel graphics are dime a dozen these days, there are a few who nail the formula it’s emulating from. Panzer Paladin comes close to that and mostly sticks the landing as one of 2020’s offerings in the niche genre, sating fans of NES classics like Blaster Master while also adding its own spin.

Heavy Metal

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You play as a female Paladin warrior named Flame, who pilots a giant paladin mecha named Grit. You have to rid the world of recent giant monster threats ranging from succubi to dragons via 17 stages, which you can tackle mostly out of order ala Mega Man stage select style.

Your levels are left-to-right kill-everything-and-survive affairs filled with treacherous platforming segments, a ton of enemies to kill, and a few navigation puzzles. To solve the latter, Flame can actually get out of the slow-moving Grit to enter small areas and use grappling points to swing from point to point. Most of the time you’ll be trudging the stages using Grit since he’s strong, can take a beating, and has good reach with his plethora of melee weapons. Sure, he’s slow, but that’s part of the challenge: to navigate a walking tank through barrages of enemies and enemy fire while beating them to submission.

Speaking of weapons, you have a 100 or so to pick up along the way ranging from “small” knives (which are large for human standards if we’re basing them on Flame’s diminutive stature) to giant ancient Mexican “baseball bats”. These weapons have limited durability; use them frequently, and they break. However, you can store a ton of them -you can only have 5 of them equipped when in the field- and you can snap them in half at any time for a one-time powerful spell and buff effect.

Breaking a specific mace can heal both Grit and Flame for a good chunk of health while breaking a special claymore can summon screen-clearing lightning. It’s actually practical in-game and makes use of your near-destroyed weapons when the time is right. Even when you have no weapon in hand, your fists will do the job just fine, though its range is piddly.

And no matter how unique a weapon is, you can always farm them somehow if you replay a stage. There are countless moments when the enemy horde in a stage gets too much, which is when breaking that claymore I mentioned comes in handy and makes the platforming a tad easier.

Knight Fall

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Boss fights are as old-school and as gimmicky as you can get, but in a good way. From the fire-storming dragon with “kamehameha” properties to the clone-spawning Lilith, you’ll have a good time figuring out patterns and beating these giants at their own game. While some like the Baba Yaga feel rote to fight against, the overall boss experience is just fine. Which is why I’m glad the other action segments are paced well and make up for that limping spot.

I do wish there were more points in the entire game that let you use Flame more. The mecha sections, obviously the selling point here, are great and all, but a tad more diversity in level design would be great seeing as there’s a huge risk in bringing Flame out. There’s a decent amount of swinging and platforming action using our heroine, but this game needs more of that to at least stand next to its peers and sources of inspiration, or at least succeed them.

And while most of its 2D pixel art is great to look at and admire, there are a number of times when the hazards and obstacles bleed into the foreground from the background, and don’t stand out as much. This leads to a lot of accidental mecha deaths because I can’t tell what’s a platform and what’s the optimal route at the first few glances. That’s not something you want to have out in the open for a game that relies on precise jumping and navigating.

Super Fighting Robot

As it stands, Panzer Paladin is a good tribute that comes with rockin’ music and a lovely dose of 2D action. It needs a bit more work to rise above the many 2D clones, but it still warrants a playthrough or two if you’re curious about this year’s “neo retro” offerings on PC and the Switch.

Pros

  • Action-packed 2D gameplay.
  • Lovely music.
  • Challenging in all the right places.
  • Spot-on & smooth controls.

Cons

  • Needs more robot/character swapping level moments.
  • Some duds in boss fight bits.
  • Graphics can sometimes obscure platforms & other hazards.

Final Score: 70/100

 

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