It’s pretty obvious by now that if you are playing a game from Grasshopper Manufacturing or Suda 51, it’s going to be a pretty interesting experience. Black Knight Sword is no different. While playing this game, I kept saying to myself “whatever these guys were smoking… I want some.” Black Knight Sword is a crazy, visual and audio assault on the mind but that’s not a bad thing. It’s a fun experience but unfortunately the “fun” of the experience doesn't last very long.
The game is played from the perspective of a member of an audience watching a stage show. When the curtain opens, the crowd quiets down, the narrator starts talking and you free your character from a noose. Your eyes and ears will think they are watching someone’s twisted dreams. This is the second game that I have reviewed which makes me think I'm watching a Monty Python movie as a result of the art and presentation style. It’s a very nice and pretty change of pace from other games released that try to go for realism.
You, of course, play as the Black Knight and your primary weapon is a sword. As you run through the 2D stages you will hack and slash your way through various enemies that resemble faces. I am talking about heads with feet, giant heads throwing fireballs at you as they sneeze, faces that fly around and many more demented enemies will stand between you and the final boss. The combat in the game is pretty simple, allowing you to stab up, forward and downwards towards your opponents and for the most part its pretty fun. You do run into some problems if enemies are below you as the downward slash doesn’t always work as it should.
You also have your black hellbore which you can throw out at any time. Her primary function seems to be activating switches throughout the game in order to give the Black Knight another ledge to jump on. Although she can be used as an attack, she doesn’t do much damage. Over the course of the slaughter fest you will be collecting hearts from fallen enemies and microwaves. Yes, I said microwaves. Destroying microwaves will grant you tons of hearts to collect. Hearts are used as currency in the game, so collecting them is vital. Sometimes you will even see eyeballs flying in a cage. I can't make this stuff up! Destroying the cage and freeing the eyeballs will unlock a station where you can purchase various upgrades such as giving you more HP, more magic, filling your HP and other goodies.
Typically, in 2D games, when you find your way to a long straight away with no jumping or enemies you know a boss fight is coming up. I love how Black Knight Sword presents the boss fights in the game. As you approach the final boss, the music takes on a nightmarish, darker tone as the narrator informs you that your impending doom is slowly approaching. The bosses range from being very easy to very difficult, at least until you discover a clever way to defeat them. Completing stages grants you new abilities for your sword. Unfortunately, your upgrades aren’t that groundbreaking, meaning that most of the gameplay throughout the rest of the game will involve the same stabbing motions over and over.
As I mentioned earlier, the graphics almost all resemble paper craft and Monty Python combined in one. Personally, I think the game looks beautiful. I loved the stage show presentation with backgrounds always changing on the fly. The audience erupting into a crescendo of cheers as the curtain closes was also a very nice touch and audio is very important to me in games. It made me feel as if I accomplished something huge and the audience was cheering for me as I played the game. Speaking of the audio the music fits very well with the dark tone of the game. I played this game with a pair of Turtle Beach headphones and I felt like my ears were being tortured, and I mean that in a good way. The dark and grim music fits the game so perfectly, it felt like I was listening in on someones dark nightmare.
There isn’t much in the way of a story in the game either. You are told almost nothing at the beginning of the game and start to learn a little more as you play through the game. Your task is to slash your way through the five stages in the game in order to defeat the White Princess. That is about as deep as it gets. The haunting voice of the narrator will do a good job of filling in the story for you along with cutscenes, but don’t expect and epic tale. The beginning of each stage usually begins with the narrating telling you a haunting tale which usually give you a clue about what monstrosity you will have to defeat to advance to the next stage.
Playing through the game once doesn’t take that long at all, however once you deliver the final blow to the end boss and set the controller down waiting to see the ending of the game, you are greeted with a sad truth. Yup, they pull a Ghouls n Ghosts” and your character is thrust back to the beginning of the game. Then you realize that if you want to see the real ending, you are going have to play through it all over again. Thankfully, a new game mode is unlocked which allows you to keep all your upgrades from your first play. Playing the game a second time with an upgraded Black Knight is far more fun.
That complaint all pales in comparison to the biggest problem with this game: a lack of auto-save. This is unacceptable in this day and age for a game like this. If you want to save your progress you have to go into the game menu and save the game yourself. The game does have check points but I thought that meant that it would save my progress along with it. I shut down the game, came back and found out that all of my progress had been lost. Sure, I know I could have just saved manually but with games like this players are going to get really far into the game, quit thinking their progress has been saved and see that hours of progress are down the drain.
Aside from the main story, you have an arcade mode and challenge mode to keep you busy if you want to keep playing. The arcade mode is great if you are the kind of person that likes climbing leaderboards. You are placed in a level and have to rack up as many points as you can before it is over. It’s pretty simplistic but competitive players should find hours of fun in this mode trying to beat their friends and other players. Challenge mode is a little more complex and has you complete different tasks such as never getting hit or completing a level with only 1HP. I enjoy challenge modes in most games but after finishing the main story, I felt play I had my full dosage of Black Knight Sword. The arcade mode, while fun at first, got old really quickly and so did challenge mode.
When all is said and done, Black Knight Sword is an enjoyable experience while it lasts. While things like the challenge mode and arcade mode didn’t appeal to me after I finished the game, I’m sure other players will find plenty of fun in them. It’s not a bad game, in fact it’s a really good game but it’s a little hard to recommend to anyone but die hard Suda 51 fans. There are tons of other 2D side scrolling games that will give you more bang for your buck. The story can be completely rather quickly and I wonder if players are even going to want to play the game over again even with all of the upgrades or if they will just look up the true ending on Youtube. If you are a Suda 51 fan, you will be able to play and enjoy this game and its unique art style. For others, I would say that there are other games that are probably a better value in terms of gameplay.