January 13, 2013
The story kicks off by introducing our would-be protagonist in a rather unenviable position. However, it doesn't take long before he picks up an enchanted sword and transforms into the Black Knight.
This is where Black Knight Sword gets interesting, as the story is very stylised. Despite the rather dark tone of the game, everything takes place on a stage, with the different characters feeling more like actors - there are even audience sounds thrown in to make this seem more authentic.
All of this seems rather quaint and it certainly allows the game to make a good first impression. However, the gameplay causes this feeling to deteriorate rather quickly.
At its core, Black Knight Sword is a rather simple 2D platformer that harkens back to the early days of gaming. Your sword is your primary weapon, but you also have a projectile attack that can be charged up. In fairness, you don't need much more than this to dispatch the game's foes, other than good timing and patience. That's because many of the enemies are pattern-based, so they'll stay still and fire awkward projectiles, or they will move in a way that dictates some careful planning.
This also applies to the game's bosses, albeit at an amplified level. You will often just have to be patient, watch their patterns and take their life bars down slowly. It's all rather basic and doesn't evolve a great deal, but it still exudes a certain degree of charm.
Platforming on the other hand, does anything but. This element of the game can be rather frustrating at best, with one misplaced jump resulting in an instant-death. Sometimes it's not even that, as similar to older games, it might just be the result of an attack from an enemy causing you to fall down a hole, or into some water. This wouldn't be too bad if the game just drained some of your life away and respawned you back where you were. Instead, falling results in losing a life and being put back at the last checkpoint. And since lives can be rather sparse, a few falls and you're back to the start of the level.
If the gameplay were better and the whole experience was better produced, these kinds of punishments would be easier to overlook. But instead of coming across as challenging, they just come across as a pain. It just exudes that annoying feeling of having to trudge through something again that you found cumbersome enough once, let alone a second or third time.
To try and make things a little bit more bearable, there is an upgrade system in place. this can allow you to increase the strength of your attacks, gain more health and even some temporary armour. These certainly do help when trying to cut through the game's enemies.
As described earlier, the game's presentation is rather interesting. How the story is played out is rather novel, but the game has a rather devilish side too. When you kill enemies, there is a ton of blood - the upgrade system even revolves around you picking up their beating hearts and receiving upgrades from a weird eye with six mouths. It might not be for some.
The same can also apply to the challenges that are offered up to gamers. Despite the frustrating difficulty, the developers decided to put in place some sadistic achievements, some of which may well drive people insane. These include completing the game without losing a single life or without using any upgrades - certainly not for the feint of heart.
Black Knight Story's distinctive art style and initial charm might draw some gamers in, but once they look a little deeper, they'll find a game that contains many elements that do quite the opposite. It attempts to pay tribute to some of the original 2D platformers, but it only succeeds in creating an annoying experience due to some poor platforming and basic gameplay.
Black Knight Sword was reviewed on the Xbox Live Arcade.