Black Knight Sword Review
The second weirdest puppet show I’ve ever been to.
When you hear that Grasshopper Manufacture are the studio behind a particular game, you can be sure that game is going to be all sorts of strange. Black Knight Sword is no exception to this rule and will have you scratching your head within minutes of starting the game. The strangeness of Suda51’s games isn’t the only reason he has devoted fans; the games are usually clever as well. Black Knight Sword, however, seems to be missing this crucial second half of the equation.
Black Knight Sword is presented to the player as some sort of twisted puppet stage show, reminiscent of the old paper cut-out animations that fans of Monty Python will find familiar. The Black Knight is the silent star of the show, letting the narrator and the dynamic environment tell the story, such as it is. Just why this particular puppet takes up his sword and dons his namesake armor isn’t very clear. Nor is the reason he’s hanging around in a hotel. Nor why he likes to collect plants shaped like cat heads.
While Black Knight Sword’s art style is distinctive, and the theatrical scene changes make each level come alive, the game still assumes you’ll need a constant reminder that you’re watching a stage production. This assumption takes the form of theatre curtains that gird the screen on three sides. What was likely meant as an unobtrusive reminder quickly becomes oppressive and annoying due to the amount of space they take up on the screen. Grasshopper have created something that is appealing, yet physically hard to look at.
It’s clear that a lot of thought went into the setting, animation, and presentation, yet little attention was paid to the actual gameplay. As a platformer, Black Knight Sword is about as basic as they come, with the typical small platforms over pitfalls and simple timing sections making up the bulk of each level, there just isn’t much going on. Set design was obviously put well ahead of level design on this project.
As an action game, Black Knight Sword keeps things very simple as well. The Black Knight will have a basic attack, a charged attack that is really too slow to bother using, and a dodge mechanic that is too cumbersome to have any effect since you have to be crouching to pull it off. I don’t have time to crouch, then dodge during a fast paced boss fight, and it turns out I didn’t need the time anyway since I was able to dispatch most enemies with jumps and basic attacks. You do pick up some magical attacks later on, but they don’t lend much to the strategy, you simply hit the button and they happen.
Black Knight Sword falls into the rare category of game where nothing is really broken, but it still isn’t very good. You may enjoy the art style, and the presentation can be charming at times, but the charm wears off after a few hours of slogging through dull gameplay. Arcade mode adds a time limit, and ups the number of enemies, and challenge mode gives you a short list of special scenarios to complete, but neither offer a compelling reason to stick around after the story is complete.
There are no multiplayer modes in Black Knight Sword.
Platformers work by creating situations that require both timing and skill to successfully navigate. The great ones throw speed into this equation as well, but Black Knight Sword doesn’t really hit on any of these elements. The setting and animation almost manage to make the game worth playing, despite its flaws, but they end up being literally overshadowed by a large curtain. Black Knight Sword is another reminder that looks can only get you so far.
Available On: XBLA / PSN