Reanimated corpses, hacking and slashing, theater shows, a flying eyeball companion to solve puzzles, and moving set-pieces add up for an interesting and unique experience. Is it one worth having, or should you keep the curtains closed on this play?
I’m afraid to say though, this isn’t enough Suda 51 as you’d expect. In fact, it’s quite tame when you compare it to Lollipop Chainsaw or Shadows of the Damned. You’ll certainly find your odd character designs and weird visuals. The story is told through narration, taking away what you’d see from fleshed out characters with vulgar language and tone. The entire thing is setup like a theater play. It’s a shame that that the theater look, takes up a bit too much real estate on the screen making objects and yourself hard to see. Black Knight Sword is a dark, dark game. Both in presentation and mood. In fact, it’s so dark that I had to bump up the brightness just to discern my character from the background. Enemy designs are grotesque and creepy, absolutely fitting the mood of the game as this dark fairy tale. There’s almost a H. P. Lovecraft look and feel to the game and in the art design. Each character and enemy is cleverly drawn in such a way that you want to look at them, even though they are hideous and trying to murder you.
I was instantly reminded of Ghosts n’ Goblins when playing. This is a very good thing, you’ll move linear from left to right to progress through the story and do some light platforming and puzzles solving. Each character appears like a cut-out and the set moves behind them rather than you actually moving. Combat is pretty basic at first, with one attack with a jabbing motion and a jump (and double-jump) ability just like the famous Capcom hero. Death comes swift if you’re not paying attention. There are three difficulty modes to play on, but even on Easy it can send you back to the beginning of a level. Deaths have this weird feel of being justified, yet unjustified. It’s mean to you, because it capitalizes on the lack of mobility of your character. For example, in the first boss battle, there’s a reaching attack it does that is hard to dodge due to the roll not going far enough. You’ll get hit every time if you spend too long wailing on the boss for extra hits. So of course a new strategy must be employed, but given it is so early in the game you’d think you would have a chance. As you progress, you’ll come across vendors in which to purchase life extending abilities from the hearts of fallen foes. This heart economy is great, because as each shop shows up. It feels like the perfect time to get an upgrade. You’re not completely committed to moving left to right and can go back for missed items and collect just a few more hearts for that next upgrade. You can extend your health bar or the strength of your attacks. Each upgrade is meaningful and only helps your success. There are some puzzles along the way, to help you complete them is to use the Black Hellebore. He shoots out horizontally to reach switches and to attack flying enemies at range. His usefulness can also be upgraded at shops.
Story isn’t all that’s offered here. You can try Arcade mode and Challenge mode for better scores. Online Leaderboards track the progress and compare you against the world and your friends in each of it’s modes. After I was done with the story, I didn’t quite feel ready to jump into the other modes. But once I did, they were small chunks of gameplay that minimized the frustration of the story. The audio work is probably the most interesting part of the game. Those paying attention will note the subtle and deeply engrossing tracks of Akira Yamaoka, who scored the Silent Hill games. The music here is different, but you’ll find the same tone and powerful music as it works synonymously with the gameplay.
Black Knight Sword is a unique game with conventional sidescrolling action gameplay. It isn’t crazy enough where you’d expect it to be, and it doesn’t do a whole lot that’s new or interesting. If you have a passing interest in the game, I would say to avoid the game. If you liked Ghosts n’ Goblins, like games like Dark Souls for their difficulty, and the occasional unfair death – then this is your game. Suda51’s involvement is a bit subdued, but Grasshopper Manufacture and Digital Reality have crafted yet another unique game that is worth your time as long as you’re willing to put in time for it.
The PSN version of the game was provided by Reverb Publishing for review purposes