Black Knight Sword
Suda 51 is no stranger to unique games, but his latest one is a perfect fusion of tried-and-true gameplay and fresh, artistic style.
At first glance, Black Knight Sword seems like a simple platformer with an art style similar to LittleBigPlanet, but peel back the surface and this game is much more. It plays like the classic platformers of the 16-bit era but the controls are silky smooth, the environments are dynamic, and the enemies are varied.
One moment the player is jumping through an underground rock maze, the next he is riding a boat on a rising wave while monsters swoop down from overhead to try and kill him. This type of dynamic challenge is sure to keep even the most experienced players on their toes, especially when it comes to boss fights. From playing through the first two levels, it is clear that the bosses in Black Knight Sword challenge the player’s reflexes and thinking. Each boss has a particular weakness and mode of attacking, and if the Black Knight is to succeed, he must do whatever he can to exploit these vulnerabilities.
Even if the gameplay was not as sound as it is, Black Knight Sword would still be an exceptional game. Grasshopper Manufacture has always embraced a unique art style, but the way Black Knight Sword is executed is truly fresh. The protagonist starts out as a puppet, which is gifted with the powers of the Black Knight. As the player progresses through the story, which is driven by whimsical, poetic voice overs, the Black Knight doesn’t move very far in any particular direction, but to reinforce the idea that he is on a stage acting out a story, the background changes to suit the setting.
As the background changes, so does the music, which sounds like the orchestral pit below the stage at a theatrical production. Combine this with the evolving background and you get a game with a unique perspective on storytelling.
However, Black Knight Sword is not just quirky execution and smooth platforming. The way Suda 51 takes the classic story of the Black Knight and turns it on its head pulls the casual player into an engaging experience. Instead of having to save a princess, the Black Knight is trying to kill an evil one. The main tool the knight uses to do this is the spirit sword, Black Hellebore. In its passive state, Hellebore is the blade that the Black Knight uses to carve his way through ravenous paper wolves, malevolent faces, and spring-loaded horse heads. But Hellebore can also turn into a ranged weapon when the Black Knight sends its fairy out to damage enemies.
In addition to the story mode, Black Knight Sword also features a challenge mode that focuses less on combat and more on classic platforming puzzles. The main attraction, though is the story mode, which is so engaging that platforming fans will be glued to the game when it releases for roughly 10 dollars on the PSN and XBLA this fall.