I originally reviewed this and gave it a 5 several years ago, but after playing through it again for nostalgia I realized there's some major issues with the game that hinder it.
Before I get into the negative aspects of the game, I'd like to say that this is nevertheless one of my favourite beat em up games. The art style is beautiful, the soundtrack fits its theme, the gameplay is actually very simple and fun on the surface. There are also some little terrain-related tricks that make you feel clever like deliberately baiting the enemy into jumping or being on slightly higher ground so that you can slash/kick enemies respectively into lying on the ground for an easy execution.
However, once you get down to it, there are some major flaws that hinder the feel of the game, which become magnified by the sheer volume of enemies thrown at you:
1) Injury mechanics
You will automatically face the direction of the enemy who attacked you: it becomes exceptionally annoying when you get surrounded and are trying to either escape or specifically focusing on one side first. This is a feature that should never have been in the game.
There is also no mercy invincibility and the amount of stun you receive as a player is also inconsistent. Thus, sometimes you could get ganged up and lose a massive amount of HP.
2) Explosive barrels.
Their sheer power can end up trivializing entire fights, but more often than not they end up massively punishing a player with the large damage, strange hitbox, weird sensitivity, ability to pierce through contest/execution invulnerability... and pushing players into instant death pits. Normally this is quite manageable, especially considering the barrel locations are always the same.
However, whether a barrel is going to be explosive or not is randomly generated when the map is loaded. There is no way to tell if a barrel is explosive or not unless you have full rage meter to highlight such barrels in a red tint. Even then, enemies tend to spawn next to barrels and throw them at you, sometimes from off-screen! Combined with getting sent into instant death pits... yeah.
In short, explosive barrels can be great fun(shame I couldn't use it to do a rocket jump), but their placement is poorly thought out.
3) Combat consistency and flow
There is very little consistency in the stun value of your attacks or the exact type of execution you'd use on an enemy. Strong/Run/Jump attacks sometimes stagger, sometimes stun, even sometimes just regular flinching, it is hard to tell what would happen. Normally this is not really a problem, but then you'd risk grabbing someone or using an execution(spending rage) when you don't want to. Why would I not want to?
Grabs leave you vulnerable. You get stuck, enemies can still hit you through the grabbed enemy. There is no good reason to use the headbutt since it is weak and can't hit multiple enemies and it conflicts with the controls established for barrels. The only upside is that it gives you the ability to throw, knocking down a whole line of enemies. Furthermore, the grab trigger itself seems to work by detecting whether you are moving forward or not rather than the key you are pressing. Very finicky.
Executions only affect a single target. To clarify, I think it is perfectly fine that it instant-kills exactly one enemy; the problem is that everyone else within range don't even flinch. The only execution that actually has a crowd control effect would be the stab & kick, where the kick at the end can stagger other enemies as well. However, this is also the longest execution in the game, which is a problem if there are enemies coming up behind you, and it kind of kills the flow of combat. Executions also don't protect you from archer fire. Furthermore, as mentioned, you might not want to spend your rage because you are on the lookout for explosive barrels.
The same problem with executions also apply to contests. It also has the added issue where you can't see the contest meter; this is especially a problem during the final boss fight since the contest difficulty massively ramps up without warning and there is no feedback to tell the player that this is so.
There is also the blocking mechanic. Its largely underused and rightfully so, however it can be improved if the block animation could be cancelled out of instead of blocking your attack input. Maybe allow it to block arrows too.
All of these contribute towards a play style where you simply spam the regular quick attack - no risk of unwanted executions/grabs, rage meter is kept full and the enemy can never retaliate.
I think the easiest way to solve the issue with not using executions is to simply change the input required. Instead of just Strong Attack, you could make it Down+Strong Attack.
Generally speaking the bosses are really easy one you figure out their gimmick. I'll just highlight a few of the more problematic ones.
The tentacle boss is too scripted and tedious once you know the trick.
Grandma is also pretty tedious and her broom attack doesn't give you time to recover if you get hit the first time. The flames on the sides of the arena are also too punishing if you get knocked back into it.
Phantom clone's behavior is very inconsistent and the horde of skeletons that appear at the end was completely unnecessary.
The hedgehog boss is both too easy and out of place.
The final boss deals way too much damage and lightning spam. Speaking of that...
5) Bad graphical effects, stage selection and option menu design.
A lot of the graphical effects can lead to motion sickness and can be turned off. However, the one thing that can't be turned off is the lightning flash - which the game spams constantly and it really irritates your eyes.
The stage selection is also poorly done. You need to drag the camera with the mouse to get through all the areas. Furthermore, when you finally select a stage, it forces the camera to slowly follow the crows travelling through all the different points - try going from the final boss to the Barbarian Stronghold and this becomes a massive drag.
Finally, the options menu would automatically change your quality settings whenever you change from normal to fullscreen, and there is no button to escape to menu without also leaving fullscreen mode.
Despite all these frustrations, I ultimately enjoyed the game enough to fully beat it and still return to play it every once in a while due to its raw simplicity and great art style. Thank you for creating Barbarian Onslaught!