Embark on the most epic of epic quests. Live out the tale of the fabled black knight and slay all manner of grotesque beasts. Tarry an evening with a mad, macabre, evil queen. This is Black Knight Sword.
For anyone familiar with the brand, this latest title from Digital Reality and Grasshopper Manufacture will surely satisfy one’s appetite for blood and derangement. For the uninitiated, it can be put another way; to play this game properly, you must let go your grip of reality and let Black Knight Sword tug you slowly into madness. You’ll be glad you did.
The clear twist to this platformer is its presentation. Black Knight Sword is delivered as a “kamishibai”, Japanese for paper drama. The background and foreground are layered, pretty, and pleasant in their obviously-not-real art style. Ever on the screen is the outline of a stage, red velvet curtains pulled back.
With this barrier, the game lets you take in the world as an outside observer at first. It may seem strange with morose heads advancing toward the black knight like twisted, nightmarish goombas. The blood that sprays after a quick sword swipe can be almost over the top.
Given some play time, something starts to pull you in closer. Perhaps it’s the amusing resemblance to a Monty Python cartoon. It could be the low, bass-filled voice of the narrator spouting off-hand comments. All of a sudden, it seems, the game manages to draw more deep-rooted emotions.
One thing is for sure, Black Knight Sword will bring out intense determination, or furious anger, or both as it sets out to kill you. This game is difficult. It will punish even the most veteran player.
Just as it will lure you in with its charming art style, it sets a lull with common platforming challenges. Hop over easily surmountable chasms. Defeat an armored foe with predictable movements. Then, suddenly find yourself getting slowed to an almost negligible pace by an amorous enemy who can’t be shaken, as you’re getting blitzed upon by a fire breathing totem – we said this game was deranged, did we not?
Black Knight Sword’s difficulty cannot be overstated. The core of this difficulty can be found in the seemingly on-purpose imbalance between the easy parts and the challenging parts, or to be more apt, the extremely easy parts and the mindbogglingly challenging parts. Albeit, it becomes a pace that one can adapt to given enough time.
Just be prepared to use all the platforming acumen you have amassed throughout the years. And if you are new to platforming games, get ready to grit your teeth, yawp, and learn through constant death and restarts.
While the journey may be fraught with peril, one cannot help but marvel at how solid the Black Knight Sword feels overall. The gameplay and the dark fantasy themes complement each other very well. The black knight will travel through burning villages to a desert mutated by missile testing, to a monstrous carnival, to a deprived wonderland and will never miss a beat.
One minute you’re slaying minions and dodging projectiles. The next minute, you’re flying through the air on a giant cock (rooster) r-type style. And in the end it all makes sense and it fits. To have played through it all, experiencing the frustration and anger and disgust both at the what makes these monsters (no spoilers here, but, damn) and at how difficult this game is, the last feeling is of resounding satisfaction.
This review is based on a digital copy of Black Knight Sword for the Playstation 3.