Whenever the Count-Duke is up to something, the swashbuckling Adalia de Volador is there to stop him. His latest conspiracies are no different. Our heroine will steal from the rich to give to the poor, defeat evil wherever it may rise, and all while having a witty repartee on hand.
The best way to describe En Garde! is if you put Inigo Montoya into a Saturday morning cartoon. Over the course of four episodes (levels), you duel hoards of foes and platform your way through a colorful city in Spain. At least I assume it’s Spain, it’s never explicitly stated, but come on. Each episode will have you go down a linear path with a few collectables and secrets to find. For traversal, you simply jump to grab onto ledges, swing on bars, and generally get around. Platforming isn’t a focus here, but it’s a great way to break up the action.
Adalia is a duelist, but you’ll be facing multiple foes at once almost all of the time. Combat here is all about managing and responding to your enemies. Each foe has a guard meter you need to deplete before you can damage them, removing one of the HP pips above the bar. Attacking with the Square button keeps up the assault on a single foe, but doing so constantly will leave you open to other foes or counters.
In addition to attacking, you need to respond appropriately to enemy attacks and temporarily thin the herd to focus on a single enemy. A blue or white attack can be parried with Triangle, while red attacks can only be dodged with Circle. A parry or well timed dodge will surprise an enemy, allowing you to then kick them with R2. The environment is your greatest ally here, as you can kick enemies off of bridges or piers to instantly incapacitate them (no one dies here, instead they hilariously pretend to be dead out of fear), down stairs to make their guard much easier to break, or into walls to stun them longer. You can also find crates, barrels, explosives, and throwables you can use or kick to stun enemies without dodging or parrying.
Figuring out how to divide and conquer in each arena is a ton of fun, and deceptively difficult too. You might be confident with a full bar of health, but just like your enemies, it depletes quickly with a single hit. There are two ways to heal: finish the encounter for a full heal, or refill a single bar by using one of your three panache moves. Fighting well fills up a yellow bar at the bottom of the screen, and when it’s at least halfway full you can hold L1 and press Square, Triangle, or Circle for a special move. Square is a stab that will deplete a large amount of a single enemy’s guard, Triangle is a circular slash to get some space in a crowd, and Circle is a very powerful kick. I found the first two very useful, while the third I only used in the tutorial it was introduced in. This could be because it was only introduced in Episode 3 when the game was almost over, but I also felt the standard kick was good enough.
While I was initially disappointed by the short length of En Garde!, I think overall it’s a benefit rather than a flaw. The game is focused on replayability, with special challenges for each level only being revealed upon completion, and it feels like every mechanic, character, and joke is fully explored in the three hour runtime. The game is absolutely hilarious, with tons of puns, one liners, and general lighthearted japery. I loved how the enemies just pretend to be dead when they’ve had enough, and sometimes Adalia even responds to their peanut gallery comments. It’s a very stupid type of humor, but it’s fun.
After progressing to a certain point, you’ll unlock The Arena from the title screen. This is something of a rogue-like mode in which you battle waves of random enemies while you’re affected by buffs and debuffs like regaining HP each time you land a hit or your panache constantly draining. The combat is a ton of fun on its own, and this will definitely keep me coming back for more alongside finding all the secrets in each level.
The game is also very pretty, with a colorful art style. Distant terrain and objects take on a painterly effect too, which looks incredible. It is clear this is an indie title, with some stiff animation in certain cutscenes, and major bookends for each Episode being static dioramas, but it’s all still pleasant to look at. The animations when Adalia is talking with her crush, Zaida, are especially adorable.
Finally, the music is decent, with traditional Spanish instruments backing each fight well enough while not standing out. The voice acting, while not traditionally exceptional, adds to the cartoon feel with exaggerated performances. The sound effects in swordplay are the highlight, as there are a ton of cues that help you manage the chaos and satisfying sword clangs when you finally land a hit. It’s a hectic game, but the sound design helps you effortlessly manage it.
David is the kind of person to wear his heart on his sleeve. He can find positives in anything, like this is a person who loved Star Fox Zero to death. You’ll see him playing all kinds of games: AAAs, Indies, game jam games, games of all genres, and writing about them! Here. On this website. When not writing or playing games, you can find David making music, games, or enjoying a good book.
David’s favorite games include NieR: Automata, Mother 3, and Gravity Rush.
En Garde! is a playable cartoon, with a charming heroine, hilarious gags, and colorful visuals. The combat and platforming are simple yet fun, with the former being quick yet deadly. While it is very short, it has enough replayability to keep you coming back for more.