Black Knight Sword Review: A Trip Down Weird
Don’t you just love it when games try something new? This originality often comes at the expense of gameplay, but developer Suda51 has a knack for making entertaining titles that also manage to transcend you usual cover-based-shooter-of-the-month. Continuing his pedigree, his latest title Black Knight Sword looks to combine 16-bit gaming, platforming, and a steep learning curve into a theatrical opera about a warrior and his journey. The question is, is this knight worthy of his sword?
As part of a collaboration between studios Grasshopper Manufacture and Digital Reality, Black Knight Sword throws you into the role of a knight with little to no exposition. Those hoping for a deep narrative full of cutscenes will be disappointed at the lack of exposition here. If anything, the game intentionally keeps things vague to keep the player guessing. A brief non sequitur about a chicken down on its luck might not make much sense after breaking microwaves and collecting (literal) cat head grass, but the trick to enjoying things is to just go with the flow. It is this level of randomness that gives the game its surreal nature; something that transcends mere atmosphere.
If anything, it is this nature that makes Black Knight Sword so interesting. Rather than throw the player into some foreign world, every single action is performed stage for a captive audience to take in. Props are moved, backgrounds shift, and a lone narrator speaks of every single high and low of your tale. This title has loads of charm, and little touches like the Monty Python-esque caricatures make the whole experience stand out that much more.
But how does something confined to a stage play…play? Black Knight Sword has the 2D platforming engine down to a science, with double jumps, sword slashes, and magic neatly wrapped up in a fluid control scheme. As a trade-off, the game throws no punches, but at least you’ll know that when (not if) you die, it comes from your lack of ability and not from artificial difficulty.
However, for all of the polish that Black Knight Sword offers to the genre, the game also has a few tricks up its sleeve that are sure to infuriate a select few gamers. A save feature is offered for the weary, but the lack of an autosave function is an intentional design choice that eschews the current industry norm. Levels also tend to overstay their welcome, with many taking more than 20 minutes to complete. Those still green in a particular zone will soon learn that losing your lives results in starting the level over sans items. It’s a challenge some may not want to face, but others (like myself) welcome with open arms.
Those who might be scared off from Black Knight Sword’s difficulty or odd source material have nothing to worry about. At a mere $10, this is one tale worth hearing. It’ll beat any winter matinee – guaranteed.