Tucked away in a corner of the PAX East expo floor sat Reverb Communication’s booth, which was filled with playable demos of upcoming Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation Network releases. Black Knight Sword, developed by the eclectic Suda 51’s studio Grasshopper Manufacture and Digital Reality, stood out as one of the craziest. We played through an early level of the bizarre 2D platformer with a Reverb rep by our sides and were left with a very positive impression.
Pablo Picasso’s famous saying goes “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” The development teams behind Black Knight Sword obviously took this into consideration and came up with a crazy amalgamation of classic games like Ghouls’n’Ghosts (the main character’s armor bursts off when he’s hit), Castlevania (double-jumping among scattered platforms) and even Shinobi. The backgrounds in the game look like layers of paper cut- outs, complete with paper characters stuck to popsicle sticks frolicking around. In the foreground, the main character (who is the spirit of a man who commits suicide in the beginning of the game) stabs his enemies with sword and makes them spew forth buckets of blood. The contrast between the childish, constantly changing backgrounds and the ultra-violent action up front sets this game apart from its inspirations. Everything from the narrative to the character designs is very dark and surreal, but the game doesn’t take itself seriously and that’s what makes it so charming.
Enemies drop realistic looking beating hearts, which the player can pick up and use for upgrading their armor and stats; there are also random microwaves scattered around the levels which contain lots of hearts. Most of the enemies, including the hulking boss at the end of the level, were giant heads with legs and didn’t pose much of a challenge. However, the Reverb rep assured us that the difficult ramps up and quickly becomes “very unforgiving.” And let’s be honest – would fans of old-school platformers like Ghouls’n’Ghosts, Black Knight Sword’s main demographic, want any different?
If you’re at all into classic 2D action games with a twist, make sure to look out for this one on Xbox Live Arcade and PSN this summer.