Why Wield a Gun When You Can Use An Axe?
In an odd way, Axe Cop is the last hurrah of the year 2020. That was a strange year, but nowhere near as strange as Axe Cop. It started its life as a comic book created by two brothers. One brother was practically an infant, the other an adult. It quickly became apparent the creative arcs were all from the younger brother. Meanwhile, the older brother brought those concepts to life with punchy artwork. Frankly, I wasn’t a huge fan of the comic book. But I saw the potential for the series to fare better in the video game format. So I was happy to review this crazy title, developed by Red Triangle Games.
That Seems Logical
I didn’t know much about Red Triangle Games prior to this, so I did a little research. It turns out they’re based in Florida (which is also kind of perfect) and had mostly done smaller mobile fare. Axe Cop is frankly a huge step up from their previous games, both conceptually and visually. The game plays out much like a classic RPG. You run around accepting missions, hunting down criminals, finding new teammates, and generally destroying anything in your path. Each character has a specific field ability to manipulate your environment, such as Axe Cop chopping things down and Flute Cop using his magic flute to activate switches. Besides that, any character can execute a running jump to cross vast chasms. To do so, you just need to walk for a set period of time, then you’ll automatically start sprinting. The distance you can jump depends on your character’s stats, but it’s pretty easy to get the hang of cruising around.
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
Despite styling itself as a classic RPG, this game is also very “Axe Cop.” The plot is meandering and frankly psychotic, but in a fun way. Your “hero” tends to decapitate his enemies and has all the maturity of a pre-teen. But then again, that’s part of the series’ charm, and I can’t say it never brought a smile to my face. The dialogue is utterly goofy, and it’s fun interacting with the eclectic band of heroes that joins your team. This includes the likes of a sunglasses-wearing dog, space ninjas, and more. Oh, and did I mention all the random transformations? For some reason, getting a slain foe’s blood on you leads to mutating into a similar form. Early on, Flute Cop gets dinosaur blood on him and transforms into Dinosaur Soldier. Later on, he turns into a walking, talking, and gun-slinging Avocado. This is a pretty regular occurrence and generally only affects combat by giving your characters new moves. Luckily, despite their forms, they don’t lose their field abilities.
Simple Yet Effective
Combat is fun and pretty basic. Each turn, you can attack, use special moves, charge or use an item. Special abilities use MP, and though you can replenish it with items, there are a couple of other helpful options. Charging lets you spend a couple of turns to replenish 25 MP. Likewise, just using a basic attack will recover 5 MP. You might notice there’s no defend option in combat. This means it’s pretty one-sided and focused on attacking. Which is kind of fitting, given Axe Cop’s tendency to attack first, think last. You can do things like take advantage of enemy elemental weaknesses, but combat is mostly about MP management.
Avocados Make Everything Better
Every time you level up, you’ll have your choice of which stat to boost. Doing so can also lead to which moves you’ll learn next, though you can only check that information at the station, your HUB area. Also important is that you only can heal your entire team at the bunkbeds found in the station, though I had to figure that out for myself. Early on, you won’t have access to a healer, forcing you to use precious healing items aplenty. While you do get a dedicated healer, later on, you can’t rely on them. There are team shake-ups on the regular, and they come out of nowhere. So make sure you’re stocked up with lots of healing items before you go exploring. Oh, and if you prefer one transformation of a teammate to their current form, you can also change that later on in the game.
Everybody Needs a Magic Flute
The game itself is comprised of several missions, which can be selected from a terminal at the station. Each one is dedicated to hunting down and capturing (or occasionally murdering) a boss character. These are just as crazed as the rest of the game. An early example is one mission dedicated to defeating a hard-rocking, child kidnapping Santa Claus armed with a magical tome. They don’t get any less crazy as the game proceeds, with some highlights being a Uni-Baby (baby with a horn and wish powers) and the eponymous Doctor Stinkyhead. And no, I didn’t make any of that up. Everything is pretty linear, though you are technically allowed to return to previous missions. I’m just not sure why you’d want to, other than hunting for items you may have missed. You’re basically riding a roller coaster from start to finish, and I’m fine with that.
Who Likes Mini-Games?
To keep the adventure interesting, Axe Cop mixes things up with the occasional mini-game. You’ll race an avalanche of snow, create circuits with puzzle blocks, avoid guard patrols, and more. I honestly had mixed feelings about these. Conceptually they’re fine, but often they overstay their welcome. Those guard patrols, for example, get really irritating. The worst one was in a dark room with a small cone of light, and any time you got caught, the sequence would start over. But perhaps worst of all was the glitch that happened in that same area. It was in Stinkyhead’s Lab, and I got lost wandering around in the dark. Suddenly a cascade of error messages appeared. Though I was given the option to ignore them, they eventually stopped my game, forcing me to quit and restart. Luckily that was a one-time occurrence, but it was still worrisome to find that sort of issue in a month’s old Steam release.
Move Over, Billy Bob
Visually is where Axe Cop shines the most. The pixel art is lush, evocative, and full of detail. Though there’s a limited color palette, Red Triangle Games makes great use of it. The only issue I have with the visual side of things is how small the gameplay window is. It’s a small box situated in the middle of my laptop, and it’s actually tinier than the Steam overlay window. I get that they’re probably trying to evoke the style of something like the Game Boy, but it’s annoying that expanding it makes everything a blurry mess. Given that choice, I stuck with keeping my window tiny, even though it irked me a bit. Regarding the sound design, that might be even better than the artwork. I really found all the tunes and effects very catchy. I’d just warn they’re also pretty loud, so you might want to play Axe Cop with headphones when you’re around others. Best of all, Axe Cop plays wonderfully with an Xbox gamepad, making everything that much better.
As Fun As It Is Insane
Axe Cop isn’t perfect, but I also found it mostly charming. Sure there are additions I’d appreciate, such as items to keep foes away for a period of time. I’d also love an auto-battle option for extensive dungeons. And sure, there’s glitches and some odd design choices. But overall, this is a very solid game, and it reminded me fondly of the stuff developed by Zeboyd Games. It’s a short, linear, funny, and entertaining experience, and one sure to keep fans of the comic happy. In the end, I actually enjoyed the game more than the source material. But even if you’re not a fan and just like classic styled RPGs, I’d give Axe Cop a look.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: PC (reviewed); Publisher: Red Triangle Games; Developer: Red Triangle Games; Players: 1; Released: November 25th, 2020; MSRP: $9.99
Editor’s note: The publisher provided a review copy to Hey Poor Player.