I recently had this strange dream that I would love to share with you. I dreamed I had embodied an animated corpse who decided to put on a theatrical play for a restless audience. On stage I set off on an epic quest with a massive sword and a small girl that I could throw at my enemies. My quest pitted me against disembodied heads that spit fire, wolves, and even strange men who threw eggs at me. I came upon a caged eyeball offering me assistance. Surprised, I snapped awake and realized I was playing the newest title from the odd mind of acclaimed developer Suda 51, Black Knight Sword.
Black Knight Sword is unique to say the least. The title can best be described as a side scrolling action platformer with puzzle elements thrown in. As described above the game puts you in the role of a Knight who must go on a quest vanquishing some of the strangest enemies you’ve ever encountered in a game. The art style chosen adds to the overall appeal of this unique adventure. With it’s “on stage” feel and 2.5D styled animation the game world and characters seem to come alive and really pop off the screen.
When it comes to the action of the game be prepared for a steep difficulty curve. The game tasks players to run and jump through levels all while avoiding enemies who are often nefariously placed or who’s attacks just coincidentally land where you are. The game really has the feeling of the earlier Mega Man titles or even the recent Mega Man 10. It is definitely not for the faint at heart. The checkpoint and save system also adds to the difficulty as the game doesn’t save at checkpoints and when lives are lost you start at the beginning of a stage. The game also makes health scarce and often forces you to purchase it.
The Knight is able to help his cause by purchasing items from a flying eye ball with hearts collected from defeating enemies. These items give you added health, armor, new magic, or even lives but in the grand scheme of the game they don’t really make it any easier. All the upgrades really do is allow you to survive a bit longer in the given level. It seems like Suda 51 set out to create a platformer that would really strike a chord with hardcore fans of the platforming genre. He created moments where I was laughing out loud and others where I was ready to throw my controller at the wall.
The uniqueness and sheer insanity of this game is just over the top. It is wrapped in a shell of some of the most off the wall characters and enemies I’ve ever experienced. I don’t want to spoil too much because most of the games fun is found in discovery, however I will reveal the games collectibles and you’ll get the idea. Strewn throughout each level are things called ‘Cat Head Grass’. They are just what they sound like, cat heads growing out of a potted plant with grass in it. The game allows you to go to a gallery to see your collection of Cat Head Grass and even lets you be serenaded by them. Point made.
By the end of the game (if you get there) you will be drained, yet feel like you accomplished a gaming feat by getting there. The game contains leader boards where you can compare scores to the rest of the world and see how your run through each level fares. Replaying levels to get better scores may only be for a handful of players. After completing my time with the game I really have no desire to go back to play it again other than to show friends the strange content that the game contains. As memorable as the aesthetic of the game may be, I think this is one title that I will move past and quickly forget. The gameplay itself just didn’t draw me in enough to warrant a replay.
The niche fan base that this game will create will devour the content and love the unforgiving difficulty it provides. When it comes to difficult platformers however, I think there are better titles out there. With a short play through time and some frustrating battles, Black Knight Sword just isn’t up to the quest of delivering a worthwhile gaming experience for most. As usual I applaud Suda 51 for taking a risk and delivering a title unlike the norm. I just hope that one day one of these titles can really hit the main stream and deliver like we all know they can.