Black Knight Sword is an M-rated, 2D side-scrolling platformer that conjures up not only feelings of nostalgia, but also a welcome sense of refreshment. While it may be your typical hack n’ slash title that follows an age-old, linear formula, this Grasshopper/Digital Reality title is far from average. It’s… odd, to say the least. Very odd – with Goichi Suda being a main collaborator on the project. From riding a giant, egg-shooting chicken to slicing up a gas mask-wearing spider, Black Knight Sword takes a shot at the dark, macabre, and downright silly. The result: A thoroughly charming and ridiculously-entertaining experience.
From the moment the deep red stage curtains open at the start of the game, you find yourself mesmerized by the abstract Medieval European puppet show art style. There are 5 levels of gameplay, each having a distinct nightmare-like theme, all while maintaining a level of vibrancy that resonates well with the witty and somber Poe-esque narrative. Each of these 25-35 minute stages are foreshadowed by a short introduction, reminiscent of Grimm’s Fairy Tales and, as you hack your way through the onslaught of increasingly bizarre creatures, the background is constantly changing, giving Black Knight Sword an even greater sense of movement. The levels look very much alive, keeping what could have been a boring adventure absolutely engaging. Enemies are animated well and whimsically-diverse, despite the larger of the lot being predictably “attack and dodge”. Once down, each explodes into a satisfying bloody mess, making each kill well worth the effort. That, coupled with Akira Yamaoka’s haunting and erratic score, makes for a tastefully-gloomy, good time.
While the controls are simple enough, the first level being an in-depth walk-through of sorts, I found them to be unresponsive. They work, but it’s easy to find yourself stuck in an attack animation, swinging your sword at the air and getting pelted by the enemy, rather than striking. You’ll find yourself mashing the “square” button more often than not, despite having a ranged attack, hoping that your advance has been angled in the direction of your current foe. As the game progresses, you’re awarded with a powerful magical attack, as well as a few other moves for your sword that only proved to be useful in a handful of situations. Upgrades, such as armor and health slots, can also be purchased at mid-level points from a giant eyeball, using hearts dropped by each enemy you’ve slaughtered along the way. These become irreplaceable, especially when you’re going to encounter a boss, as health is sparse, to say the least.
In all, if you were ever a fan of classic titles such as Ghosts N’ Goblins or Castlevania, then this is the game for you. It maintains the retro feel of classic hack n’ slash titles while bringing something entirely new to the proverbial table. Black Knight Sword is dark, bloody, and morbidly fun. Despite its moments of unforgiving, platforming Hell and dreaded level restarts at a cursed “Game Over”, it was a joy to play through and definitely recommended as a weekend standalone title or a small-dose adventure!