Game Review

Rage of the Gladiator Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Sean Aaron

Rage, rage against the dying of the light

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and Ghostfire Games' Rage of the Gladiator makes no bones about paying homage to Nintendo's classic arcade boxer Punch Out!!, using similar mechanics based around recognising enemy attack patterns to battle through a bevy of foes. Whilst its shoes are planted firmly in the Nintendo title's footsteps, this is a game that stands proudly on its own, with a good deal of craft evident in the details and additional elements that build upon its inspiration.

Rage of the Gladiator tells the story of the kingdom of Avalance and its prince Gracius, controlled by the player in this first-person arena fighter. As with Punch-Out!! player movement is limited, with defensive actions consisting of dodging, blocking and jumping, and offence taking the form of bludgeoning your foes with your war hammer and special combo attacks which can be purchased in the course of play. Players will take on an array of ten foes who will provide a good test of their ability to anticipate attacks and respond accordingly: this is a game that depends as much on thought and strategy as it does raw reflex action.

Of course for a game of this nature to succeed it needs good controls and Ghostfire Games have thoughtfully provided three different control schemes, each of which changes gameplay without feeling compromised. Playing with the Remote on its side, in a manner familiar to veteran players of Punch-Out!! on home consoles, presents a game which feels slightly faster-paced to account for the more immediate button-based action. Using the Nunchuk and Remote sees players using simple motions of both controllers for attack, lending itself well to a left-right rhythm like you'd use in one of the track-and-field events in Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games. We preferred the option of using Wii MotionPlus, which allows players to use the Remote to perform attacks in four discrete directions, whilst Nunchuk motion is used to trigger special attacks or perform a simple shield bash. Broad strokes result in excellent reading of the direction of your motions, though chains of very rapid swings can result in occasional reading of movement in the opposite direction due to a "wind-up" effect, although this doesn't affect gameplay. Gracius and his war hammer are more Mighty Thor than Musashi Miyamoto, so you won't see the one-to-one movement of a sword-fighting game, which is consistent with the fantasy-Punch-Out!! theme.

Gameplay consists of watching for opponent attacks and trying to counter, block with a shield (not possible against all attacks) or dodge them and follow-up with a series of your own blows. Dodging and chaining your own attacks in combos is key to success: you can chain up to five in a row which will also result in your enemy getting stunned; if your special combo meter is sufficiently full you can unleash a variety of attacks to further damage them, often with spectacular results. Either one of you can only be knocked down a total of three times before being defeated, so make sure you time those special attacks well – unless you enjoy the sight of prancing enemies dancing on your grave!

Initially you only have a simple series of hammer and shield blows available as a special combo, but thanks to a "skill tree" system you can purchase more combos – including magical attacks – and a range of other abilities and enhancements using points earned following each match. It adds a terrific RPG element that provides incentive to play on as you work towards fully levelling-up Gracius. Make your choices wisely because once you've clicked the "Continue" button on the skill tree menu you cannot reallocate your points.

Of course beyond improving your battle prowess you'll have ample incentive for beating your foes: unlocking the Challenge Mode of play. Challenge mode features the same opponents with new, more difficult attack patterns: the name is no joke, these guys are far tougher than the first time you met them! Whilst the increased difficulty is not to be sneezed at, it should be possible to defeat your opponents without any fancy moves; it all comes down to recognising what they're going to do and taking the steps to counter, block or avoid it. Each of your battles is given a letter ranking from C – S (if there's a lower score possible we certainly didn't see it) and if you manage to get a minimum of all A ranks in Challenge Mode and are fully levelled-up you'll unlock a further special ability, a nice reward for dedicated players.

Although Rage of the Gladiator is a WiiWare release and therefore necessarily limited in size by Nintendo's specifications, the quality of the audio and visual presentation is far ahead of the majority of downloadable titles. The voice acting is outstanding (where applicable) and each character has multiple lines of dialogue and short (skippable) intros as well as cutscenes following every fall. The models are chunky and well-animated with excellent use of colour and textures. Each of the characters has their own distinct body language and motions and the facial animation is as good as we've seen in any game on the Wii to-date. Combined with the voice acting each of the fighters feels like a fully-realised individual; further reinforced by having a textual back story to read prior to going into battle with them. Gracius's own story is told via interstitials consisting of some hand-drawn art and a voice-over; by the end you'll know the story of how he came to be in the arena fighting for his life.

All of this is underlined by a dramatic musical score that gives a sense of epic combat to the fights. Considering how much has been crammed into this release – which is at the upper size limit for WiiWare – the quality of the music compression and the rest of the audio effects is yet another noteworthy achievement for the developer.

If we have any gripe at all it's the lack of pointer use for menu navigation which makes travelling the sizeable skill tree a bit of a chore, and feeling tuckered out after bashing enemies in the noggin over and over again!


Rage of the Gladiator is the kind of WiiWare game we'd like to see more often, with excellent control, great design and bags of fun. All three control schemes are perfectly usable and whilst we're sure there are many traditionalists who will stick to the digital controls, we highly rate the MotionPlus implementation which features one-time calibration (no pointer clicking required between matches) and a pretty good workout besides. There's clearly been a lot of care put into this game; not only in making sure it plays well, but in making the characters come to life in a fashion that encourages replays just to experience them again.

From the web

Game Trailer

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User Comments (82)



Roo said:

Sounds good! I'll be after this come EU-release, that's for sure. Good review!



Corbs said:

Great game and great review. I'm definitely going to be playing some more of this one this weekend.



axelay80 said:

ANOTHER game to download this month. This, Mega Man 10, Rondo of Blood, Cave Story... loving the old-school vibe.




I would have bought this on day 1 just for the sake of how much effort had been put into it. But this makes me a happy bunny.




Whoa.....first off detailed and stellar revw by Sean-ito (proving yet again this is clearly the best site for reviews) and secondly sounds like one heck of a ware game. Insta-download assertion re-affirmed!

I'm a huge fan of Punch Out! Wii to boot!

Come to EU soon please!



Dazza said:

Wow I thought this might be good, but I didn't think it would be THIS good. I can't wait for this to get a UK release now. RRAAAGGGGGGGEEEEEEEEE!!!1

Perhaps they should have charged 1500 points for it after all? At just 1000 I feel like I am getting a real bargain now



Sean_Aaron said:

There's just so much detail put into this I couldn't put it all into the review. Seriously quality stuff: the archway in the arena, the character's hammer and shield, special effects when you get knocked down.

There are many ways this could have been released sooner and with less time and money required on the part of the developers, so my hat's off to them. I doubt even a major publisher would have put in as much effort.



jangonov said:

I agree 100% and if Nintendolife gave half stars I would give it 9.5. My only quam with it is that I do not like how the motion plus is used, and I ended up going NES style. But that is personal preference. Ghostfire seems to be a master at compression, between this and the amount of music on Helix, I am completely impressed with them



XCWarrior said:

This seals the deal for me, I'm picking it up. I can't believe Game Informer gave the game a 6.75 (Well I can, they are anti-new Nintendo). IGN and you guys both loved it. Picking it up once I finish a few other things.

Is that one contest thing still going on?



cheapogamer4life said:

Really glad to see that this game lived up to all the hype surrounding it. Seems like this and Cave story maybe my first DL's for the Wii. Then I will finally have a chance to try out the motion plus controls for a game.



Sneaker13 said:

I'm glad it's good, I will be getting this when it reaches Europe (please let it be soon).



Kirk said:

Apart from the badly voiced/acted and rather cheap looking story movies (well imo), if you can call them movies (because it's just these plain static images at the end of the day, although the actual artwork is still quite nice), this looks like a really good game all round.

I'll be getting it as soon as it's available in the UK.

I also hope you guys decide to make a sequel to this game immediately and add in some things like proper 3D story cinematics, using the in-game engine, some more playable characters with unique weapons and moves/magic etc, an online multi-player mode, a couple more arenas, some more movement around the arenas, just because it would look cool to see your character moving around the enemy and it would show off the levels even more, and a few other extras here and there.

Now that might not even be possible considering the WiiWare memory limitations but this game looks so good that I would love to see a sequel with those things in it. If you did it well enough and really made it a fully fleshed out game you could probably even get away with releasing it as a full retail game, but it would really need to be kick ass if you are thinking of doing that and match if not surpass Punch Out Wii!! in almost every area.

Fingers crossed

Note: I personally think it would have looked really cool if you had created 3D story scenes using the same graphics and style as seen in the main game and then if need be, for memory reasons, rendered these as the images you used for the story sections. At least then they would have matched the rest of the game perfectly and with a little "touching up" would have looked very cool as story sections imo. Obviously fully 3D animated cutscenes using the in-game engine would have been perfect but I can understand why that may not have been possible given the memory limitations. At least the current drawings have decent artwork



Uncle_Rick said:

Great! I've had this game since Monday, and it's fantastic. I hope more reviews like this convince others to buy it.



Philip_J_Reed said:

I can't get over how great this game looks. Waiting until next week, so that I can grab it in one go with Cave Story, but it looks wonderful.

Awesome review, Sean. You always express yourself well, but this one got me even more pumped for the game than I already was...and that's an accomplishment!



GreenSpleen said:

This is one of my favorite WiiWare games. I enjoy it as much as my 8 year old son. Control is spot on, the challenge is there and the voice acting is cartoonish and funny to me. The snake head on Gargadon is amusing to my son.(and me). I cant recommend this one enough. WiiMotion Plus is by far the best way to play. I hope developers take note of how to make a good wiiware game and how to properly use the M+. Thanks Ghostfire!!



Sean_Aaron said:

Thanks Chicken. I've been blessed to play some of the best games on the Wii recently - this was certainly a fun one to review.

@Kirk: Absolutely. Tagon is my favourite and that video shows off some great animation in the game: the throwaway gesture of raising his sword to the crowd in salute and the amazing animation of his neck stretching and eyes bulging when he gets whacked in the side of the head, not to mention the excellent voice-acting and animation of the face when he speaks - really first-rate, I was beside myself when I was playing it.

I haven't managed to beat him in Challenge Mode, man that's like a different game altogether, but the great thing is when I lose I know it's because I've made a mistake and it's not that the game is being cheap. Even the most deadly attacks can be avoided or prevented with the right dodge or well-timed counterattack. It's well-balanced, but also very challenging: a real gamer's game.

@Ezekiel: I played the first five rounds with the Motion Plus with minimal time using the other methods. I put a bit of effort into my gestures so after 90min, I felt like I had a decent amount of activity which I enjoy about playing Wii games like this rather than sitting on my hind end.

On the down side my shoulder is still sore so further play was just using the remote NES-style which is really good, but does control differently. You cannot pull off uppercuts, downward smashes or shield bashes, but it's still a fun way to play and give your arm a break.



Egg_miester said:

wow way to high of a score in my thought the game maybe a little fun but the ugly graphics and characters with poor story line it is barely a 6.0



Kirk said:

@Egg miester

Sorry but these are some of the best looking graphics on WiiWare, from the quality of the character models and the brilliant animation to the awesome realtime lighting and the whole art style in general.

The game also looks like a lot of pure good old fashioned fun, if you like that classic Punch Out style gameplay and I most certainly do, and that is most important imo.



ejamer said:

One question: would the game score the same for people who don't have any of the Motion Plus accessories? If you are limited to normal Wii remote/nunchuck or NES-style controls, is it still worth playing?



Sean_Aaron said:

@Egg miester: I'd have to wonder what kind of TV you're playing it on because I think it looks fantastic, but that could be down to a difference of opinion on the art style, I suppose.

@ejamer: if you read my last comment I played the last five of ten boss fights using NES-style controls alone and found it to be very playable. I didn't care as much for the Nunchuck-Remote combo which basically maps the 1 & 2 buttons to Nunchuk-Remote shakes, but it works well if you prefer that to pressing buttons.

I don't know that I'd score it as high if there was no Motion-Plus support, just because there's a little more variety in the actions available using it; not because I think the game's controls are rubbish without it.



CoffeeWithGames said:

@Sean Aaron:
A quick spelling correction, "Glacius and his war hammer...", it should be Gracius instead.
Glacius is probably a character from a future Al Gore game.

Also, Sean, is the lack of pointer navigation the only thing keeping the game from a 10 out of 10? The reason I asked, is because I'm using the NES-style controls, and the thought of pointer navigating never even crossed my mind.

I'm playing the game NES-style, and having a blast with it.

@Egg miester:
The graphics in this game are great. I doubt you've even played it though, you've been nothing but a bucket of negativity on anything posted about this game.



Atlantis1982 said:

I am rather surprise how well this turned out, from reading this review. Though, this game still not interesting for me, and there are other games I would rather get including the upcoming Cave Story.



Kirk said:

@Sean Aaron


Maybe it would be nice to post some more up to date videos of the game to show it off better.

I mean the default video you have on the main game page is a bit old and doesn't even have any realtime lighting in it.


Like the one I posted earlier for example



GreenSpleen said:

Im not sure what people are looking at when they say the graphics are bad. This is a beautiful WiiWare game with good animation, lighting effects, etc.

For those wondering about the controls, it plays well with all 3 options: NES, Remote/nunchuk and M+. I prefer the M+ just because it allows more variety in swings and attacks patterns. I cant commend Ghostfire enough for allowing players all three options to pick from... why more developers dont give us the option to do so at this point is beyond me.



Imerion said:

Excellent review of what seems to be an excellent game! I will get this as soon as it is released over here.



AVahne said:

these guy have been doing a great job
they even let us have some of the music, so of course this game is good



ejamer said:

"I didn't care as much for the Nunchuck-Remote combo which basically maps the 1 & 2 buttons to Nunchuk-Remote shakes, but it works well if you prefer that to pressing buttons."

This is exactly what I was wondering. The NES-style controls sound solid enough, but I'd really like to experience this one with motion controls, and it sounds like the Motion Plus add-on improves that a lot.

Rage of the Gladiator high wasn't on my list of games to check out... but it is now. Sounds like the developers did an excellent job with this title.



Sean_Aaron said:

@CoffeewithGames: Well, I wouldn't put it down to that alone, let's just say I have yet to find a game I felt okay about giving a 10/10 to. Drill Land comes close and this isn't far off. Part of the problem I have with scoring perhaps.



Popyman said:

Awesome! I'll pick it up after I beat MM10 and Cave Story...a few dozen times =P



IAmNotWill said:

Wow! Its March Madness for WiiWare this month. Mega Man 10, Max and the Magic Marker, Cave Story this monday and this!



It always seemed that it was a high quality game and this review confirms it ^^



vherub said:

strong review, didn't have high expectations for this, but now will be dl'ing.



bro2dragons said:

going to buy Red Steel 2 with MotionPlus, then get this to go with it first thing. then i'll have two motion plus games while i save up for WSR and will have three.



EdEN said:

I've been preparing for this by playing their last game, Helix, for 30 minutes a day as a warm.up for 30 minutes of Wii Fit Plus. Anyone that loves euro-style electronic music should go and download Helix as well...



Yasume said:

I would have bought it for sure if I had Motion+. I'm now not quite sure...



CoffeeWithGames said:

I don't have a WM+ accessory, and I'm playing it with just the NES-style controls. The controls are really responsive and the game is excellent(and challenging!).



Sean_Aaron said:

I got through Normal Mode, but Challenge Mode may be beyond my meagre abilities. I think I may have to go back through Normal to earn some A ranks before I'm ready!

And I cannot repeat enough, please don't let lack of Motion Plus put you off, as CoffewithGames says the NES-style controls (or remote and nunchuk if you want to build those forearms) are also very fun.



brandonbwii said:

Downloaded this. Awesome. It's a shame I have yet to see this in the Wii Shop's top 20. It truly is a fun game and it's difficulty doesn't crush my soul as much as Punch-Out, but still tough enough.



TKOWL said:

Was not expecting this. May dowload after buying the Bass DLC in MM10.



CoffeeWithGames said:

@Sean Aaron:
Just get into Challenge Mode. It is absolutely destroying me.

Replay value to the MAX if anybody is going to get A rankings on everybody in Challenge Mode.

"it's difficulty doesn't crush my soul as much as Punch-Out...."
Have you made it to Challenge Mode yet?

I haven't played Punch-Out!! on the Wii, just the original Punch-Out, so I don't know how the difficulty compares. I just know Rage of the Gladiator is no walk in the park right now.



CanisWolfred said:

You know, I still can't say I have any interest in this game. Somehow First-person action games like this just don't appeal to me.



timp29 said:

I thought this was going to be cheese. Very happy to see that I was mistaken!! Well done to the developers!



miketh2005 said:

I'll have to get this one. When are you guys reviewing that magic marker game? look intresting, but dont want to spend money on it without a review from you.



Sean_Aaron said:

@CoffeewithGames: Just to be clear I did try Challenge Mode and it's very cool, but man is it tough! The formerly inept drunk Tagon is suddenly a major threat! I cannot remember how many times I tried beating him. I did manage to knock him down twice, but without spoiling let's just say his new special attacks proved too testing for my memory.

I'm sure I can take him, but it's going to take some time!



cheapogamer4life said:

"Downloaded this. Awesome. It's a shame I have yet to see this in the Wii Shop's top 20"
@ Brandonwii
Geez, Its only been out for 4 days now. Give it a little time. Spreading the word about good games takes a little time to catch on.



Adenn_Solus said:

this game reminds me most of the elder scrolls games, because of the first person, medieval weaponry wielding style, and the use of attacking in several directions.



TheNewestBooM said:

this game is gravy... ive bought plenty of wiiware games in mah days, and this is up there with world of goo. better than the game i bought before it (mega man 10), thats for sure.



MakeMyBiscuit said:

This game ROCKS big time! It was a day 1 purchase for me. I can't wait until I have more time to put into it. If people don't buy and support this game and the developers, than Wii owners don't deserve this kind of effort.

All this crammed into 40 MB and only $10!!! WOW!



ejamer said:

So took your advice and bought this game. Wasn't planning to... but the rave review was very convincing.

Have to say I'm not the least bit disappointed! Great fun, and very nicely polished (having only tried the NES-style controls so far). Somehow I didn't expect as much voice acting - not sure why though. Rather like the upgrade system, and suspect it will add significant depth and replay value.

Hopefully when (if?) I get a Motion Plus accessory that will only make the game better.



Spoony_Tech said:

Was'nt sure about getting this one till i read the review. Sounds great and for 10 bucks. Sign me up....



CoffeeWithGames said:

@Token Girl:
I didn't buy Punch-Out!! because I thought $50 was too much money for essentially the same game with very few new characters.

I think Rage of the Gladiator proves that a game can follow a formula, but offer new game-play elements and presentation, that make the experience fresh...and for only $10 at that!

I think the music is great in the game, I've got a story I'll be posting up with my "thoughts" on the game once I finish Challenge Mode.



Porky said:

I thought the ghostfire developer would comment the review but hasn't happened.



GhostfireScott said:

What a great review! Well written and concise.

Glad all you Nintendo Lifers are enjoying the game, we here at Ghostfire are very proud of it.




Kirk said:

I'll be downloading it...as soon as it's available in Europe...



barkie_mailman said:

@Ghostfire Scott

I don't know about everyone else, but I love seeing the game devs actually talking in the forums with us common folk. Just cuz o' that, I'm turning on my Wii right now to buy this game!

....the 9/10 doesn't hurt either



XCWarrior said:

@Ghostfire Scott
Someone's a creeper, lol But seriously, I agree with barkie, great to see you guys in here not afraid to talk and take slack, though none needed here.

I'll be downloading the game soon. Are you guys still doing that contest? That might prompt me to download it faster.



XCWarrior said:

Ah that's right, four weeks after release. Man, that might be tough given I'm already given up two weeks... hmm.



Tate24 said:

Wow what game! just download it graphics are really good specialise face animation each boss has unique personality. Am currently stuck on that bloody octupus guy think hes 8th boss. Am just not quick enough to dodge his laser attacks!!

i really like snake demon lion boss, i love it when green snake says hes to scare to attack hehe:).



scooter2659 said:

I LOVE this game, it's pretty hard though, I'm stuck on that ninja guy Naegano? was that his name? I dunno, anyway, friggin' good game, friggin' good review 8)



dings said:

Glad they released a demo! After World of Goo, this may be the best Wii-Ware game!

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