I have been a fan of Suda 51’s game since I first played Killer7. The strange, quirky titles that come out of Grasshopper Manufacture’s studio are an acquired taste. When you finally see that most of his work isn’t supposed to make sense, you begin to see that the strangeness is just there the sake of being odd. Black Knight Sword is another one of those strange games.
Remember when fairytales were more than just a princess in distress and a wonderful knight in shining armor rescuing her from the big bad evil of the story? Like the old Grimm fairytales that were more graphic, violent and disturbing, Black Knight Sword is a darker take on the genre. The game starts off with a man that has apparently committed suicide. Revived by the sword of the Black Hellbore, he becomes the Black Knight on a quest to defeat a princess. Yeah, it’s a fairytale full of happiness and rainbows.
Black Knight Sword is a 2D platformer in the form of a paper marionette play. The entire game takes place in what looks like a theatre with stage curtains, changing backgrounds, and a narrator telling the story both through cut scenes and game play.
The Black Knight’s main attack is a rapid sword stab that can be performed in high, standing and crouching positions, as well as a number of jumping attacks that will suspend the character in the air for a short period of time. The jarring thing about his main attack is that it is impossible to attack and move at the same time. He can jump and double jump and can perform an evasive back flip to get out of the way of incoming attacks. New abilities and moves are learned at the completion of each level. Many of these are rather useful, like the charging power attack and the somersault kick. The Black Knight will even learn magic attacks that can damage multiple foes on the screen.
There is a small familiar that the knight carries with him that represents the Black Hellbore. This little creature can be sent out horizontally to activate switches to trigger platforms or other environmental features. This is also the source of his magic abilities.
Killing monsters and opening microwave treasure chests (yes, I said that correctly), the Black Knight will gain hearts that serve as currency in the game. These can be used to purchase temporary upgrades like better armor, increase maximum health or refill depleted health. Knowing what to buy at the stores, which are staffed by an eyeball with wings, is essential for surviving the game. The game is brutally difficult.
Even on normal difficulty, with only three lives, players will become very frustrated with how difficult Black Knight Sword really is. The game lacks an auto-save feature, so players will have to manually save over and over again after progressing. When the last life has been used, you can either reload your last save or restart. If you restart, you will be put back at the beginning of the level with nothing you have obtained in your last run. That means if you want to progress at all, you will have to save constantly and reload.
The normal and easy difficulties are vastly different. Easy is a breeze to play through, and I found it possible to go through an entire level without taking a hit. Normal is pretty much a death sentence. There really is no good medium.
For those of you who want to know just how “Suda” this game is, besides the microwave treasure chests and collectables in the form of potted plants shaped like cute cats, there are multiple instances where I stared incredulously at the screen. After a boss fight with a giant chicken, the Black Knight jumped on its dead body, and began to ride it through a village while firing lasers and dropping melon bombs onto enemies. Yeah, it’s that crazy, but that adds to the experience. The game won’t turn any heads in the game play department, but at least it’s very unique.
Even with the difficulties that are present, the platforming is never really clunky, and the overall experience is clearly a product of Grasshopper Manufacture. It is a strange ride that can keep players involved for a few hours. Saving frequently and keeping an open mind is a must, but for only ten dollars, you can get some enjoyment out of Black Knight Sword.
Review copy of game provided by publisher. Primary play on PlayStation 3.