Warrior needs gold badly.
Headup Game’s Super Treasure Arena feels like a blast from the past. Although it’s still on Steam Early Access as we write this, a Switch port is here to help ring in the new year anyway. The local-multiplayer-only game (note: the PC version does apparently have online support) has an intentional 16-bit pixel look and split-screen four-player free-for-all matches, perfect for a quick competitive fix of arcade action. While this pixelated time warp won’t win any awards for depth or breadth of content, as a party game it has a distinct charm.
With its fantasy setting and characters, and overhead twin-stick shooting and hacking action, Super Treasure Arena is a bit like a pared-down version of Gauntlet. Except instead of working together to survive a monster-infested dungeon, players are simply trying to grab treasure while preventing everyone else from doing the same. There are also monsters that spawn in regularly, from blobs and bats to skeletons and other creepy ghouls, to further hamper players.
You can play by yourself – if only to get the lay of the land for each map – but this is a game meant for competitive action. There are five different characters to choose from: the warrior, mage, rogue, mystic, and ninja. As it turns out, the only notable difference between them is their unique special power. The mage, for instance, can unleash their firestorm ability to fry nearby monsters and opponents, while the warrior can create a magical shield.
Other than that, players compete for the same range of weapons on the battlefield. Shotguns, magic wands, bows, cannons, and other fun tools of death and destruction spawn in regularly and any character can use them. Since the weapons have finite ammo, there’s a constant rush to get new weapons. You can also cache weapons in your inventory and switch between them at will.
Super Treasure Arena has just two game modes. In the Classic mode, everyone scurries about killing monsters and bashing chests to get as much gold as possible before time runs out. Alternatively, you could just let the other players do all the work, then go kill them and steal their stuff. It really depends on what kind of person you are. Dying only adds a brief delay to the action before respawning again.
In Treasure Run, the game switches to a timed capture-the-flag style, where contestants rush to grab special treasures and take them back to their home base. Again, monsters are always lurking about and screwing over your competitors is both allowed and encouraged. Both modes are a lot of fun when you have other actual humans around to play with, although if you’re the sad and lonely type, you can assign bots to the other three character slots.
Unfortunately, those two modes make up the sum total of the gameplay. There’s not even an option to at least have two-on-two matches, which would have been particularly useful for Treasure Run where carrying the treasure significantly slows you down.
Super Treasure Arena comes equipped with six differently-themed maps, including a standard stone dungeon, castle courtyard and throne room, quaint wooded glade, watery cove, and secret thief hideout. The maze-like maps are well-suited to the action and look charmingly retro. They’re big enough to move around in, but not so much that players can effectively hide.
There are a couple other oddities, though. Super Treasure Arena has no option to turn off vibration feedback, for one, which is particularly annoying in handheld mode. Another questionable design decision that is utterly counter to all gaming logic is the lack of destructible props. There are barrels throughout the levels that just sit there and, as all gamers know, barrels naturally explode. Except here, they don’t. In fact, Arena’s barrels are unfathomably indestructible, which I’m pretty sure is against the law.
Unforgivable lack of exploding barrels aside, Super Treasure Arena is a fun little multiplayer game. While the lack of actual online play (on the Switch, anyway), game modes, and levels is a definite problem, Arena counters its shortcomings quite a bit simply by being cheaply priced. For a quick old-school multiplayer fix, it’s a safe bet.
[Reviewed on Switch]