Black Knight Sword
What We Liked:Wonderfully gory gameplay, entertaining narrator, plenty of challenges
What We Disliked:Some frustrating enemies, the occasional bout of merciless deaths
Black Knight Sword In what game could you play this kind of incarnation of the Black Knight; an armoured crusader who has a penchant for collecting cat-headed plants, smashing microwave ovens and slaying princesses? Only in Black Knight Sword of course, coming to Xbox Live Arcade this month. Co-developed by Digital Reality and Grasshopper [...]
In what game could you play this kind of incarnation of the Black Knight; an armoured crusader who has a penchant for collecting cat-headed plants, smashing microwave ovens and slaying princesses? Only in Black Knight Sword of course, coming to Xbox Live Arcade this month. Co-developed by Digital Reality and Grasshopper Manufacture, the game is filled with eccentric touches, buckets of blood and body parts, and a devilishly divine presentation that will help lodge the game in your mind for a while. Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin.
Black Knight Sword tries to take the player back to the basics of side-scrolling hack ‘n’ slashers, with plenty of enemies to fight through and collectable items to loot from them afterwards. The knight himself can run, jump and crawl and is equipped with a sword and can launch an attack in any direction in an 8-point arc, enabling him to swipe at enemies diagonally if the player so wishes. Even the ability to attack flying enemies directly above you is extremely handy, and is reminiscent of classic side-scroller Altered Beast. Players may also utilise the spirit of the sword, Black Hellebore, to fire projectile attacks, with the distance of the attack depending on how long the button is held. Black Hellebore isn’t that powerful though, and on most occasions you’d be better off attacking with the sword. As for enemies, there are loads in each level. Sewage-slug type creatures, potato-headed monsters and decapitated bird demons all make an appearance, trying to hinder the player’s progression. There are even fat men who try to throw rocks at you if you get into range. The monsters are quirky and certainly look nightmarish and threatening, and the game becomes a challenge when it starts throwing in projectile-firing enemies and close combat critters simultaneously. As you’d expect, even just brushing shoulders with one of these beasts will take a small chunk out of your lifebar, which can be catastrophic in Black Knight Sword when you can’t locate any healing items.
From a gameplay point of view the action is fun, if repetitive, but it can get quite merciless. Enemies don’t die always die when you expect them to, the knight falls short of a jump that you assumed he could easily make, and the distance between checkpoints sometimes feels punishing. Even the knight’s unpredictable evade move has a tendency to muck up the most intense boss fights, and emotions will run high if you let Black Knight Sword under your skin. It is challenging, there is no doubt about it. Dying forces you to return to the start of the level, which could be a good trial for platform veterans, but could be frustrating for more casual players. However, adjusting the difficulty will change the location and amount of enemies, and varies the gameplay somewhat.
I did enjoy how the game starts off with an odd concept, the knight wanting to kill the princess, and then just completely runs off on the road to Crazy Land. Microwave ovens are scattered about the levels and sometimes contain all-important healing potions or hearts, the likes of which can be collected from dead enemies. These hearts do carry some relevance though- they can be traded for powerups at stores throughout the game, and the player can upgrade the Black Knight with extended health meters, protective armour or extra lives. Players should also be on the lookout for potted plants with cat heads, known as Cat Head Grass, that are hidden in-game and can be collected and viewed in a greenhouse off the main menu.
Visually, Black Knight Sword is whimsical to look at. The screen is framed by curtains as if the player is watching the Black Knight’s tale at a theatre, and the enemies and backdrops look as if they are made of paper and cardboard. This seems to give it an appearance similar to Little Big Planet in a way, but much darker. The levels are well designed and interesting, as is the somewhat skinny Knight himself and his demonic companion Black Hellebore. Personally, the sound of the game is my favourite aspect. A narrator, similar to Vincent Price welcomes you to the main menu and is on-hand to comment when you are close to death, or make excuses for the Black Knight when it’s game over. The background music changes from mischievous to eerie and characterises the levels perfectly, while the constant clanking of the knight’s armour is hypnotic and never seems to get old.
For replay value, there’s leaderboards and a small achievement list that will keep players coming back for more. Collecting all of the Cat Head Grass in the game warrants an achievement, as does the ever more punishing task of completing the game without dying. Whether it’s unlocking the arcade and challenge modes or hunting for secret collectables, there’s something to keep players attracted to Black Knight Sword for a little while.
On the whole, the game is a great salute to classic side scrolling adventures of old. Turning a classic fairy tale on its head, Black Knight Sword takes a more deranged trip down the rabbit hole and becomes one of those odd experiences that will end up sticking in gamers’ heads. The gameplay is a sturdy hack ‘n’ slash platformer that is brilliantly basic, with items to gather and bosses to fight, and even adds some different elements like an upgrade system and a varied difficulty setting that actually alters where enemies spawn. Although Black Knight Sword is relentless in its love of putting players through their paces, its challenging nature should be enough to add some replay to the game, alongside its tougher achievement list. If you’re looking for a fast-paced, gory Christmas then look no further than Black Knight Sword to fulfill your wishes.