Bytown Lumberjack is a bloody mess, just like it is intended; the problem is that it is not much more. The title is an Indie Game release for XBox Live by Owen Deery and is a good case of getting what you paid for. The start of the game did a great job of piquing my interest but it quickly fell off from there.

The game starts with the Lumberjack enjoying a quiet day at home only to have his relaxation ruined.  The Stag, a mystical spirit, has stolen his favorite log, and nothing in the forest can stop the Lumberjack’s quest to get it back. Grabbing his trusty axe, the woodsman begins on his quest for revenge.

What more could a lumberjack want?

The game plays out as a standard side scrolling beat-em-up like Double Dragon, but lacks any true depth. The controls consist of directional movement, light and heavy attacks. Most every enemy in the game can be dispatched by repeated light attacks, and this can lead to some sore fingers. The heavy attack is needed to break through some barriers, and the shields carried by one enemy, but in all other cases it is useless. Even with a simple button layout, a game can achieve depth. Check out Captain Commando if you want to see it done right.

For an indie game, the graphics were good, but it seemed like there were just too few animation frames and things felt a little clunky. The blood effects were amusing at first, but get old quickly due to a lack of variety. All of the enemies, no matter how small, have death animations, usually invovling severed limbs or torsos and gigantic blood puddles. It was nice to see a bit of old school dual scrolling in the backgrounds, as it added a layer of depth to the forest.

It is hard to describe the wet “thwack” sound of an axe hitting flesh, but Bytown Lumberjack does it well. Overall, the game mixes classic 8 bit soundtracks with more current sound effects that go well together.

There is no clean way to kill something with an ax.

The game is a bit short and repetitive, but considering the source and price, it is not unexpected. The entire game took about an hour to play to completion, and I had no desire to do it again. The enemies get progressively larger as the levels progress, starting with the lowly rabid raccoons and building up to giant brown bears. The only enemies that did not charge directly into my attacks were two ranged units: human rock throwers and archers.

The arrows were easy enough to avoid, but the rocks were the only thing in the game that could reliably deal any damage. These attacks can not be interrupted once the throwing animation begins. The final fight with the Stag was also a let down since all it took was a ‘jab, jab, step back’ cycle to dispatch him without a scratch. It was fun for a few minutes, but very forgettable after. The whole thing felt like a variation on Lemmings, in which all the enemies walk right into the business end of your axe. There is some potential here, and I would like to see what Owen Deery can do next as an indie developer.

Here’s the Rundown:

+ Good mix of classic score and more current sound effects
+ Fun and mindless break from other games
- Shallow game play
- Devolves quickly

 

5 and 5.5 are mediocre. These aren’t necessarily bad games, they just doesn’t do anything that is worth caring about and not worth the time of most people.

Bytown Lumberjack was developed  by  Owen Deery and published as in Indie Game for XBLA and will be available soon for PC. It costs 80 Microsoft Points. A copy was provided by the developer to RipTen for the purposes of review.