Some ninjas are stealthy, careful assassins. Others are speedy, unstoppable killing machines. Strider falls into the latter camp. I got my hands on the PS4 version of the current- and next-gen Strider reboot at the Tokyo Game Show today. Double Helix, the developer behind Silent Hill: Homecoming and the new Killer Instinct, appears up to the task of turning players into powerful, wall-clinging swordsman. Strider is a fast, smooth side-scroller that feels great so far.
We previously gathered plenty of details about the game following its announcement at the San Diego Comic-Con 2013, but nothing compares to actually playing it. The playable section of the game begins with Strider assaulting an enemy base. Within seconds I already understand the basics and have a great feel for Strider's impressive agility. The ninja can double jump, slide, slash his sword in multiple directions, throw daggers, cling to walls and ceilings, and swipe enemies into the air. Strider's movement and animations are smooth and intuitive, allowing me to start tearing apart the gun-toting guards with ease. Enemies routinely bring guns to this sword fight, but Strider's ample jumping ability makes evading simple. My favorite technique is sliding through foes and turning around to slice them to bits. Flying robotic turrets join their grounded counterparts, forcing me to leap all over the screen and manage handfuls of enemies at once. Strider's fluid and familiar controls makes it easy to feel like an expert warrior within minutes.
Beating up bad guys is important, but so is environmental exploration. Double Helix is injecting Metroid-inspired exploration into this retelling of the original Strider. Certain areas of the military base are blocked off by locked doors or reinforced floor vents. Finding a slide power up not only makes your low dash attack more powerful in battle, but also destroys these vents to find new areas. My favorite upgrade is a charged, fiery slash, which is great for shattering enemies' shields or breaking through specific doors. Strider's 2.5D visuals and light Metroid elements remind me of Chair Entertainment's XBLA hit Shadow Complex, except controlling the titular hero is much more satisfying and action-packed.
The demo concludes with a boss battle on the back of a giant, robotic serpent called Ouroboros Mk. III. Starting at the beasts' tail, Strider clings to the long creature while avoiding electrocuted spikes. After reaching Ouroboros' head, I destroy one of three energy canisters, which explodes and sends me flying back to the tail section. I repeat my journey across the boss' body several times, dodging missiles, electrical pulses, and taking out enemies along the way. Clobbering all three energy tanks weakens the huge foe and allows Strider to slice its metallic head in half, which reveals an ugly mutated creature's head beneath. The demo ends just as the multi-tiered boss battle is heating up.
Finding the right balance between empowering players and making a challenging, rewarding game is tricky. Strider's precise controls and the variety of increasingly difficult enemies seen in this demo have me confident that Double Helix is on the right track. Strider will be available for download next year on the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and PC.