Game of the Week
Black Knight Sword, 16 cert, Digital Reality, Xbox Live (also PlayStation Network) ****
And so the brave black knight traversed the harsh landscape to save the kingdom from...
the charming princess? This basic premise is the key to Black Knight Sword, a tribute to fairytale traditions told through a warped perspective. Think Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes mixed with Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Black Knight Sword is old-fashioned in a number of ways. It’s a side-scrolling platform game with more than its share of swordplay, taking influence from a number of old classics. The combat is reminiscent of the mighty Strider, and the layout of levels echoes the early Castlevania games. After about three decades, the side-scrolling game has been stubbornly resilient, and at their best they’re absorbing, fast-paced, easy to pick up and hugely intuitive.
But Black Knight Sword is also retro in its appearance, mimicking old animation techniques and theatrical traditions. The villains – a cobbled together army of grotesques – are a clear tribute to Terry Gilliam’s animation. (Python references abound, whether it’s the voicework, humour or even the game’s title.) And the game is presented like a play , with curtain calls, objects dangling as if on ropes, and scenery that rolls aside like theatrical backdrops. The soundtrack adds to the homemade, eccentric feel: atonal piano and clanking percussion, complimented by the jangling and creaking of the knight’s armour.
It’s sadly ironic that the minor flaws of Black Knight Sword are also traditional, mostly revolving around save points not being automated.
Like most downloadable titles, it’s available in demo version so you can try before you buy. This might be advisable, as the strange tone and appearance might be off-putting to some gamers. But for those who like engaging and irreverent retro games, Black Knight Sword pretty essential.