From a first-person perspective, you face off against each villain, memorizing their patterns and exploiting weaknesses. Players have a choice of three different control schemes, allowing you to play with the remote held horizontally for an old-school NES experience or with motion controls if you want to get your arms swinging. Either way, you basically have four attacks: high left, high right, low left, and low right. You can dodge side to side, bring up your shield to block, and also jump over low blows. Finally, each hit you land on your opponent will add to your energy bar, and once it’s filled a certain amount, you can unleash powerful spells and combos.
Amit the Charmer, one of 10 bosses you’ll face in Rage of the Gladiator, can transform into a gigantic snake.You need to watch each boss closely so you can learn their tells, catch them off guard, and land a few punches when you can. It’s as addictive and satisfying a formula today as it was in Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! back in 1987. Avoiding attacks often requires very quick reflexes and you can count on losing to most bosses on your first try, but I was always up for another go after being knocked out. This is one of those games where you’ll find yourself leaning left and right in your seat, actually trying to dodge the in-game attacks.
I think the audience that will most enjoy Rage of the Gladiator, though, is a younger gamer crowd. A lot of the dialogue and voice acting is a bit cheesy in a Saturday morning cartoon sort of way. While it may cause some adults to roll their eyes, this is really a great game for pre-teens.
Rage of the Gladiator features top-notch production values, especially for a $10 WiiWare game. The bosses are well animated, each speaks many lines of dialogue, and some nice lighting effects add flair to the battlefield. Even the audience cheering you on looks better than you would expect.
Ghostfire Games definitely had a lot of fun designing the 10 bosses. No two are alike, inspired by monsters and warriors from various mythologies and eras. Naginata is an evil ninja, for instance, while the Sea Witch is a riff on Medusa. Lord Vensor is a dark magician who calls meteors to rain down on either side of you, making it difficult to dodge his sword. After you’ve beaten them all, the story continues in Challenge Mode, where you have to face them again in more difficult variations.
One of my favorite parts of Rage of the Gladiator is the upgrade system. After each victory you receive three upgrade points you can spend to learn new spells and improve your abilities. There is a pretty extensive tree to work through, allowing you to both customize your fighter and enjoy constant rewards.
Rage of the Gladiator succeeds at taking the familiar Punch-Out!! formula and placing it in an ancient battle coliseum. If you were disappointed that Punch-Out!! Wii didn’t include more new fighters, well, here are 10 new ones to get to know. The production values on display here are impressive, especially for a WiiWare game. Multiple control schemes offer something for both fans of old school and motion controls, the game looks great, and lots of voice acting brings these bosses to life. Keep in mind, though, that the often silly dialogue and voice work will probably appeal mostly to younger gamers. But Rage of the Gladiator is up there with the best that WiiWare has to offer.