Black Knight Sword (Xbox 360 Review)
Black Knight Sword is the newest game from the Goichi Suda’s (also known as “Suda51”) company Grasshopper Manufacture as well as Digital Reality. This is the second game both companies have worked on, the previous game being Sine Mora.
It has been described as the Dark Souls of the platforming genre. Even the name is a homage to an in-game Dark Souls weapon. It has been described as ruthless, gruelling and difficult. But nobody ever told me it was going to be, or at least feel, very unfair at times. Other comparisons of Black Knight Sword refer to it as a modern vision of Megaman and Castlevania.
As expected of the games made by Grasshopper Manufacture there is a certain level of “quirkiness” about this title. Although it never felt forced before, here it can. In Black Knight Sword you are brought in to a dark and quirky world by shaking a man free from a noose he has freshly hung himself from. It was such a dark and striking tone to be presented with that I was very hesitant to even continue. From there on out it just gets darker and darker. When reading about it, I was confronted by the idea that the game was just this dark and edgy, but I never believed it.
Throughout the game there were a good few assets that I struggled to comprehend, such as the Cathead grass and the idea of smashing open microwave ovens to find treasure. It never quite gelled as I tried to find a reason for their existence. As I progressed I was also forced to justify a reason to keep playing.
Like some other classic platformers Black Knight Sword has a dedicated jump button as opposed to using a directional input. This means that you can direct your attacks in one of the 8 potential directions allowing for more precise attacks at the countless enemies that can fly. There is also a dodge mechanic in the game that allows the player to perform an evasive roll from a crouched state. Alongside this you will find an attack, a magic attack reminiscent of Golden Axe type magic attacks and the ability to chuck the “Hellbore” at your enemies. So a few simple mechanics right? Not really. The evasive roll works in reverse and can be a bit of a pain to work your head around at first, especially if you are in tense situations. Most of the time I met a rather untimely death as I lunged forward square on top of an enemy and their sword. Because it’s not like they were having an easy enough time killing me already. When it came down to the basics the game felt a tad bit laggy and unresponsive which is terribly off-putting in such a punishing game. It wasn’t long before I grew frustrated with myself and the remnants of my controllers that had just Jackson Pollock’d the wall.
They game even acknowledges the level of difficulty throughout by providing a practice mode, but when playing through the “practice” mode I didn’t find any noticeable differences. It was practically the same game albeit slightly less difficulty. It most certainly didn’t merit a place on the main menu. If anything it should have been another level of difficulty, if anything at all. It comes across as some sort of half-hearted filler to allow the game to look just a little bit fuller.
But if you’re sitting there reading this thinking “man this guy needs to man the fuck up” then there is the challenge mode for you hardened Megaman masochists. Here your wits and reactions are put to the test. The challenges demand that you know every one of the games mechanics and have perfected the use of them down to a tee. You will need to be fully awake for challenge mode to ensure you perfectly time your evasive rolls to capitalise on some brief invincibility and be able to pull off spacing-perfect jumping attacks to enable you to extend your jumps. For me it was all a bit too much and I retreated to a dark corner to sob alongside my broken spirit. But that’s just me.
Overall I was let down by Black Knight Sword. I was expecting a quirky and comical platformer that would test me as I progressed in the way that Dark Souls did., but instead I was confronted with a game that often felt like I needed to have every step planned down to a precise moment and action. I was overwhelmed by the difficulty to an extent and just struggled to find myself in the right mindset to continue playing. There are great ideas amongst all the complicated jumps and obscure enemies, but it just feels like they were trying too hard to make something unique. In turn they ended up with something that has no real draw. There is clearly a market for Black Knight Sword but sadly this is one bizarre bazaar I’ll be giving a miss next time round.