Black Knight Sword Hands-On Preview – 'Tis But a Scratch!
Written Friday, April 06, 2012 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
Ask anyone who's seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail about the movie's most memorable scenes, and chances are you'll be bombarded with quotes in a silly voice, from the knights who say 'ni', to “I fart in your general direction” and so on. You'll also no doubt be treated to a rendition of the infamous black knight scene, in which John Cleese plays a stupidly stubborn armour-clad fool who has his limbs systematically sliced off by King Arthur. There's a distinct whiff of Python in Grasshopper Manufacture's esoteric Black Knight Sword too, although the titular warrior is a killing machine rather than a willing amputee.
Armed with a stabby multi-directional blade imbued with the magical power of fairies, you guide the titular black knight through some classic 2D side-scrolling platform action inspired by Eastern European animation and Kamishibai, otherwise known as 'paper drama'. Wait! Come back! Black Knight Sword isn't just a weird curio. It's a dark and gory fairy tale from the brainpan of Suda 51 and a throwback to the tough side-scrollers of old, with leaps of faith, inch-perfect platform jumping and plenty of heart collecting.
We're not talking the typical life-replenishing cartoon heart though. We're talking proper, blood-pumping hearts that you gather as your currency to spend at the bizarre shop points where you can purchase temporary upgrades that disappear when you die. So, a health upgrade will increase the number of hits you can take and armour bolsters your defences, but die and you're back to square one, and all those hearts you've painstakingly grabbed and spent are in the bin. It's harsh, but there's always a microwave (yes, a microwave oven) filled with more hearts or more walking heads to slice or stab up and extract their hearts. Virtually everything you hit dispenses the bloody things.
Black Knight Sword is a nightmarish oddity as a result, with spurts of blood and hearts bouncing around, albeit with a quirky and unique look unlike anything else you'll have seen before. It's easy to play too, but resolutely hardcore and punishing. You can move the camera with the right stick to scope out the risk any leaps of faith might represent, hit the right trigger to activate switches, jump, double jump and dodge with A, stab with X and direct the black knight's sword with the left analogue stick. In principle, it's perfectly straightforward, but in practice, Black Knight Sword is shaping up to be an old-skool challenge.
Our hands-on takes us through the opening moments of Black Knight Sword, battling strange two-headed fat men, walking, flying and missile-spewing heads and the weird white knight boss at the end of the stage. Killing him is a simple case of lunging in with your sword, getting in some slashes, then executing a lithe backwards dodge with A. It's easier said than done though, and despite purchasing armour from the freaky store, it takes a few attempts before we clock the attack pattern and wear him down enough to cleave his white armour asunder and snaffle up the hearts that spill forth.
Black Knight Sword might be hard, but it's gory good fun, and the visual style keeps throwing up strange new sights, whether it's a fish popping up on screen to denote a checkpoint, the white knight dancing around on the horizon or just the general oddball nature of the game's fairy tale stylings, with a distinctive Japanese twist by way of Monty Python. Lovingly animated and wonderfully nightmarish with a dreamy orchestral score from Akira Yamaoka, Black Knight Sword is an interesting prospect and another off-the-wall creation to add to Grasshopper's growing list of weird and wonderful titles.
There's no release date or price yet confirmed for Black Knight Sword, but it'll likely be taking to the stage later this year.