Venture on a quest to defeat the White Princess in the grimmest and ill fated fairy tale ever told, thanks to Suda 51 and Digital Reality. The ghoulish presentation and macabre character designs are pure nightmare fuel, but the dull and ho-hum gameplay leaves plenty to be desired. Taking place on a theater stage in front of silhouetted audience members, Black Knight Sword resembles a puppet show from Hell.
Hanging by a noose, our suicidal protagonist gets a second chance thanks to the power of the Black Hellebore – the mystical spirit inside the Black Knight Sword. If this fairy tale existed in my youth, I think my parents would have skipped over reading it to me before bed.
The ever-changing paper crafted environments are full of little details, such as cardboard cutouts of rodents scampering through sewer pipes or birds flying through a dark forest. Sceneries are constantly shifting in and out as you progress through the game’s paltry five levels. Using Black Hellebore directly, you can activate switches to create platforms to gain access across chasms, spikes and all sorts of environmental hazards that you will die from – and you will die.
As the Black Knight, you will face untold abominations from deformed goomba looking creatures, to horse heads that let out blood curdling neighs as they bounce around attached to a spring. Most don’t pose much of a threat and will explode into pools of blood after one or two stabs with the sword, but like zombies, the sheer number of them are a cause for concern. Upon completion of a level, you gain new powers, such as a slash and charged up attack. Instead of being mapped to separate buttons, they both use the same attack button, but in conjunction with direction movements. Awkward would be the best way to describe it, especially with plenty of buttons to choose from.
Bosses are recycled throughout the game, almost given the impression that ideas came to a grinding halt half way through. As refreshing as it was to hop on the corpse of a giant fire-breathing chicken, which turns the game into a side-scrolling shoot ‘em up, having the same set piece multiple times comes off as lazy.
The archaic save system might be the most offensive thing about the game and will be the root cause for a few “rage” sessions. Any game that doesn’t feature autosaves, while never asking at any point if you would like to save, has a special spot reserved in hell.
In The Testament of Sherlock Holmes you are at least informed before starting the game about the lack of an autosave feature. Completing more than half of the game in a single session and realizing afterwards that the progress wasn’t saved, is not what I call a pleasant experience. Checkpoints are reasonable placed throughout, but if you forget to save after a tough boss or mini-boss, expect to be sent back to an earlier checkpoint.
Providing two extremes in difficulty, Easy won’t provide any challenge and allows you to breeze through the game. The brutal nature of Normal however, will discourage anyone from experiencing the game. Strangely enough, upon completion of the game on the easy setting, you are presented with a inbetween difficulty that feels perfect for the game. Besides finding collectible cat-head plants, I didn’t have any motivation to play through it a second time, even with the additional difficulty.
The lackluster gameplay holds back an otherwise superb storytelling experience of a rather peculiar fairy tale. I never felt compelled to keep playing through the game, especially one that is littered with frustrating cheap deaths around every corner. Besides collecting all of the hidden cat-head plants, I don’t see any reason to play through the game a second time.
Note: The Black Knight Sword review was written based on the Xbox 360 version of the game provided by the publisher.