Black Knight Sword Review
Suda51’s known for making some freaky games, and compared to controlling a cheerleader with her beheaded boyfriend’s head as a sidekick, Black Knight Sword (BKS) seems relatively normal by comparison. BKS is a paper puppet show and as the title implies, you’re a black knight with a sword who will slash his way to victory. If slashing isn’t to your liking, you can also lob the sword’s spirit, called the Black Hellebore, at enemies to defeat them, or later, use magic. You’ll still want to slice folks up though – not doing so means you won’t be able to make use of the charged sword swing, and it will take more time to get items from microwaves.
Instead of Hot Pockets or pizza though, the microwaves in this game’s twisted stage-set world contain things like hearts or 1-ups. You’ll want to gather as many hearts as you can since they enable you to shop at the in-game store. Doing so lets you heal the knight, increase his power, his defense, or get 1-ups. You can find them from time to time in the game outside of microwaves, but they’re quite rare and are something you’ll want to stock up on. You’ll also want to grab as many cat grass heads as possible to see them perform in a little main menu musical for you.
The game is liberal with its checkpoints, which is good because BKS does suffer a bit from some stiff jumping controls. You’re never in quite as much control over the black knight’s path as you’d like, and it results in quite a few deaths. This problem is made worse by the otherwise awesome stage play aesthetic. The stage cuts off part of the viewing area, resulting in using the right stick to move the camera around to see where things are. It’s a workable solution to get around the issue, but is still kind of annoying and it prevents the game from flowing as well as it seemingly should.
While the platforming is a bit dicey, slicing up the bizarre cast of enemies, ranging from creepy trees, disembodied humans and dinosaur heads to crazy people flying at you strapped to chairs, is a blast. They’d all be right at home in the Addams Family mansion, and the dark sense of humor on display here makes this a must-play if you dig that franchise.
The combat fares quite a bit better than the platforming since you have multiple kinds of sword strikes, magic, and the Black Hellebore. The sword works well from a variety of angles, and even lets you use it as a pogo stick to kill enemies directly beneath you. You can be really accurate with your strikes and even be precise in mid-air (provided your jump went off without a hitch), while magic gives you a bit more range than slashing, but less than using the Hellebore, which is slower than magic. If you’re low on health in a boss battle, choosing the right option is crucial. You could try stabbing if your foe is really bloody, but then you risk dying if/when he recovers. The best option then is usually magic if you’re close, or the Hellebore if there’s a lot of distance between you.
There’s a nice amount of strategy here, and the puzzles are just the right level of brain-teasing to prevent frustration. What may frustrate players is the lack of an auto-save at every checkpoint. It’s important to pay attention to the signs in the tutorial area because they do warn you of this, but if you rush through them, you’ll regret it since it’ll take far more time to get back to where you want to be in the game than it would’ve to just pay attention.
Everything on the AV side of things rocks. The paper cutout play visuals look fantastic and animate pretty well. They aren’t so elaborate that they take too much time, but also aren’t so fast-moving that they appear cheap – a nice middle ground has been struck. Seeing all the pieces of the in-game world form in the background is a real treat and the lush crosshatching adds a lot to the designs when it’s used. Simplicity also works well – like the creepy-looking crayon drawings that tell the between-level tales. They’re like what you’d expect to see out of a really twisted kid’s coloring book, and add another layer of spookiness to the package. The game elicits discomfort and uneasy feelings while playing and doesn’t go for total shock, resulting in little things like that really working well. The visuals are impressive on the whole.
The same goes for the audio. The music goes from creeky violins that sound aged and worn to eerie guitar playing. It’s fairly diverse, fits the environments, and what’s going on in them very well. The creepy Vincent Price sound-a-like narrator also fits the tone of the game really well and makes the crayon drawings…of death…really come alive. The screams and howls in the background add to the mood too.
For $10, Black Knight Sword delivers a mostly good and entirely creepy experience. Anyone who has a dark sense of humor is likely going to love it, and if you enjoy action-platformers and can tolerate some iffy jumping controls, you will too. Just to be safe, download the demo and see if you like it – if so, you’ll get $10 out of it easily. The soundtrack’s so good I wish there was a game+OST bundle available for $15. Maybe/hopefully that’ll get released down the road in some soundtrack bundle. The paper cut-out visual design plus the stage play motif set the game apart visually as well.
Reviewed By: Jeremy Peeples
Publisher: Digital Reality
This review is based on a digital copy of Black Knight Sword for the PlayStation Network provided by Digital Reality.