Black Knight Sword Review

Black Knight Sword is a brutal platformer with old-school sensibilities that challenge your patience and capacity for the macabre.

There's no shame in taking the easy way out, especially when playing a gruesome platformer like Black Knight Sword. Its five stages don't appear insurmountable at first, but it doesn’t take long for merciless traps to pick away at your confidence and measly stock of extra lives. The chilling presentation and strict mechanics may lose you at first, but digging deeper into Black Knight Sword heightens your appreciation for its intricate web of creative misdirection. Expect the worst when venturing into this world, and you'll be rewarded with stylish and satisfying action.

It starts innocently enough: the game is presented as a staged performance, and as the main menu loads, the orchestra warms up while a lively audience chatters away. Once you begin the Story Mode, a narrator with a chilling timbre gloomily introduces the scene. He presents it in the typical “dark and stormy night” manner, but there’s never any mention of the events or characters at hand. It’s a mysterious start, and the only way to get any real context for Black Knight Sword’s plot is to sit idle at the main menu. After a few moments, a semi-hidden prologue reveals that the you have been reborn as the agent of a sword spirit and sent on a mission to destroy an evil, murderous princess. The fact that these breadcrumbs of plot points aren’t readily communicated is odd, but in the context of the ominous performance in which the gameplay exists, the ambiguity gives your imagination plenty of room to wander.

Nearly everything in Black Knight Sword resembles papercraft. Though enemies may occasionally appear organic, they’re animated like an unsophisticated marionette puppet and movement is limited to simple joint articulation. Terry Gilliam of Monty Python fame seems to have been a major influence, but with a dash of Edgar Allan Poe’s morbid sensibilities thrown in for good measure. Most of your enemies resemble mishandled biological experiments fit with miserable expressions and droopy, lifeless flesh. There are occasional deviations, such as ravenous wolves and brightly colored sewer slimes, but you’ll spend the majority of your time fending off decapitated heads of various shapes and sizes. The motif does wear a bit thin, but variations in enemy design and mannerisms prevent its use from growing completely stale.

How quaint; your first mission is to free your dusty corpse from a noose.
How quaint; your first mission is to free your dusty corpse from a noose.

The soundtrack is in many ways the most absurd element of Black Knight Sword, and there’s nothing quite like battling waves of sorrowful foes and bravely leaping for perilous ledges while a demented cacophony of atonal string instruments and hauntingly repetitive vocals attacks your senses, and perhaps your sanity, too. The entire aural and visual presentation is a stressful combination of ungodly sights and sounds that are anything but pleasant or endearing, but they ultimately work in the context of the game’s nightmarish setting.

As the Black Knight, your sword is your primary survival tool. You are limited to thrusting attacks in the early going, other offensive moves must be unlocked later. Your thrust is a quick motion that can be repeated in rapid succession to quickly deliver multiple strikes, but you are unable to do so while in motion. Thrusting in mid-air allows the Black Knight to hover in place, and you can also use it like a pointy pogo-stick, repeatedly stabbing enemies below.

Gratuitous displays of blood and horribly demented faces are commonplace throughout Black Knight Sword.
Gratuitous displays of blood and horribly demented faces are commonplace throughout Black Knight Sword.

New sword abilities become available as you progress through the game, including an upward swing and the ability to fire projectiles, but the basic thrusting action remains the best tool for the job in most scenarios. Your new, flashy abilities are never truly required though and are only useful on rare occasions. When you need to hit an object or enemy at a distance, you do have the option of projecting your sword’s spirit, but it’s a slow process that hampers your ability to attack or double jump until she returns to her sword form.

Though he wears heavy armor, the Black Knight is surprisingly nimble, capable of sprinting, double jumping, and backflipping when necessary. You spend a lot of time fighting enemies, but some of the game’s most challenging segments involve navigating lofty platforms, all the while avoiding spikes, pitfalls, and stacks of flame spewing heads. The mix of demanding platforming and tricky enemy patterns makes timing your jumps and strikes a delicate procedure. It’s almost too easy to take damage and jeopardize your progress unless you consistently play your hand just right. Mastering the required timing takes a lot of practice, but its incredibly motivating when you finally figure out how to tackle a particular stage without losing lives. In most platformers, it doesn't mean a whole lot to have to restart a level, but in Black Knight Sword, stages can last upwards of thirty minutes.

You can save your game at anytime during a stage to preserve your progress and accumulated items at the the most recent checkpoint, but choosing when and where to save can be tricky at first. You have two options when choosing to continue: you can load your last save and give it another go or restart the level with a fresh stock of lives. Save at the wrong time, and you may find yourself stuck in an impossible situation without enough health to finish the level.The second options sounds reasonable enough then, but it comes at the cost of your health and equipment upgrades, the former being a crucial element to your survival in the long run. Enemies drop currency in the form of beating hearts that you can spend on said enhancements and it can take the better part of five stages to realize your full potential. So what then do you do when confronted with the roadblock outlined above? At some point, you wouldn't be crazy for thinking a complete restart is in order. You may even feel the need to set the difficulty to easy.

There’s so much more to Black Knight Sword than completing the Story mode a single time that you shouldn't concern yourself with proving your worth right away. Plus, when you ultimately reach the end of the final stage for the first time, you’re unceremoniously thrust back to the start of the game after a meager, unfulfilling ending. Not unlike the classic, Ghouls’n Ghosts, this is the game’s way of telling you that you need to do it all over again if you want to see the true ending. Thankfully, it opens up the New Game + option that allows you retain your armor and health upgrades. Only when you can play with a fully-realized Black Knight from the start does the Normal difficulty begin to feel like a reasonably accomplishable task.

Say hello to the world's most unusual shopkeeper.
Say hello to the world's most unusual shopkeeper.

After completing the Story Mode a second time, you may be tempted to explore the additional content in the Arcade and Challenge modes, but it’s unfortunately more of the same. Arcade mode remixes enemy layouts and removes the ability to continue after losing all of your lives. It’s the most difficult rendition of Black Knight Sword’s five stages, which is saying a lot, but it’s not exactly new content. Challenge mode consists of twenty-five brief levels that are essentially glorified time trials, but Black Knight Sword’s gameplay doesn’t fit within that mold very well. Frustratingly, most challenges start you off with a single unit of life and your attempt ends the moment you even touch an enemy. Add that to the lengthy process required to restart a challenge and any remaining motivation to press on quickly disappears.

It takes time to master Black Knight Sword's strict mechanics, so expect to expend some effort conquering each stage without losing a life or two. People with the perseverance to do so will discover that it’s actually fair and balanced in all but a few minor instances. Challenging games aren't inherently bad unless the gameplay is somehow broken, but Black Knight Sword’s adherence to a high-standard of difficulty will ultimately turn a lot of people off. If you prefer your platformers charming and whimsical, this game is best avoided. If, however, you’re looking for a challenging, action heavy platformer that’s reminiscent of old-school behemoths, waste no time picking up Black Knight Sword on either PSN or XBLA.

The Good
Bizarrely attractive presentation
Challenging level design
The Bad
Poor introduction to the story
Small selection of useful abilities
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Peter is Managing Editor at GameSpot, and when he's not covering the latest games, he's desperately trying to recapture
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Avatar image for jfontalba

Pretty obvious castlevania clone, Still I like it.

Avatar image for eiji1

I'm just gonna give a word of warning - I really didn't like this game. I felt the narratino was uninteresting and overbearing, the gameplay was overly simplistic, and the visual style, while certainly evocative, evoked nothing good in me.

Avatar image for miser_cz

In the video avatar blends too much with the background, making it unpleasant and difficult to watch.

Avatar image for slefo29

I'm confused, but isn't the Black Knight the bad @$$ from Fire Emblem? No, wait, I'm thinking Dark Souls.

Avatar image for LeoLex_

will be playing this when get through my 6 game back log...Suda you legend

Avatar image for Feedbackula

Oh, yeah. I got this weapon in Dark Souls... there's better...

Avatar image for wizardboyus

looks okay, would be more interested if it had deeper combat mechanics and better music.

Avatar image for Stevenuccj

@wizardboyus Really? I thought the music was great...

Avatar image for Stevenuccj

@innocent69 Really dude? You're mad about a 1 point difference?

Avatar image for a1br0wn

@Stevenuccj @innocent69

Not only that, but he's mad about Ninja Gaiden 3, one of the most disappointing games in the whole entire universe, getting a 6.0.

Avatar image for I_are_Cake

@a1br0wn He's referring to Razor's Edge, which is an excellent game. Not the turd that was the original Ninja Gaiden 3.

Avatar image for Stevenuccj

This sounds great. Old school and difficult. Love it.

Avatar image for essam24

where is the rating ??? is that mean its less than to be rated or less than 0 weird.!

Avatar image for fanaticsm

i dont see a score....

Avatar image for gr1ndgr1nd

oldschool castlevania feelings...just chek it))

Avatar image for I_are_Cake

I feel that this game deserves a lot more appreciation than what the other critics are giving it. Its really fun & its one of the few M rated platformers out there. Try out this game people, its really difficult. I think the difficulty is why critics didn't appreciate it. I hope this game also comes to PC & eShop (own a PS3 & 360 but I just want it on there).

Avatar image for LingeringRegime

@I_are_Cake Thanks for this comment I am going to try it out.

Avatar image for linkyshinks

I love GHM, but this looks crap

Avatar image for tgwolf

Well of course it's not enough just to have a platformer, they 'have' to amp up the gore to give an M-rating so as not to lose all the potential players when their ADHD from chemicals, including but not limited to trademark scores of energy drinks, and exacerbated BY ALL THE OTHER brain-damaging and delusion-inducing M-games makes them throw their controller at the screen, spit profanity and go back to Call of Duty or worse. Meanwhile sane people like me see another ridiculously-filthy game that isn't worth playing and stand while being passed by throngs of THE OTHER type of gamer shambling toward their next fix, eyes glazed and empty.

Avatar image for Iamshmee

@tgwolf So what are you waiting for? The next My Little Pony game, or Jeopardy? Why even play games as the majority of them have fighting of some sort, so even if the violence isn't grotesque it's still there. Oh wait you won't be able to even play MLP because that has violence too now.

Avatar image for I_are_Cake


Avatar image for specific_oceans

Visuals seem muddy as hell

Avatar image for Kyrylo

game is awsome:D

Avatar image for OHGFawx

I think I'm going to have to play this.

Avatar image for Wensea10

This is seeming like a great game; the side modes really give the game a super amount of replay value.

Avatar image for heraklea

what if gamespot gives 9 to re6....would you enjoy more ? ....or you find yourself that game sucks and dont deserve 9 ....

Avatar image for psuedospike

This game scored higher than RE6!? Really Gameslop? Really!?

Avatar image for megakick

@psuedospike RE6 was a let down. Angry Birds scored higher then RE6.

Avatar image for theblackfrog

@megakick @psuedospike Re6 was a good one

Avatar image for alien33

Where are the fanboy comments: "This game scored higher than RE6? Really Gamespot?"


Avatar image for zpluffy


RE6 is missing so much from RE4. It's more like Gears of war clone now

Avatar image for wizardboyus

@zpluffy @alien33 really...still talking about this guys???

Avatar image for GunBladeHero

@alien33 Per law every game should score higher than that horrible game.

Avatar image for franzito

Macabre? Punishing? Bloody? Sounds like was made for me but... maybe later...

Avatar image for Black_Knight_00

It's Edgar ALLAN Poe. Get it right, people.

Avatar image for Leboyo56

@Black_Knight_00 You sound like you would enjoy this game.

Avatar image for doc-brown

@Black_Knight_00 Yea..let's fix that.

Avatar image for Black_Knight_00

@doc-brown Well, what do you know, they actually fixed it, look. Thumbs up to Gamespot

Avatar image for kyacat

The game looks wickedly fun and it remind me of classic castlevania for playstation 1

Avatar image for Atermi

@kyacat classic one was for Sega mega drive

Avatar image for I_are_Cake

@Atermi *NES.

Avatar image for Iamshmee

@I_are_Cake @Atermi *Famicom?

Avatar image for fredwv

that thing looks a lot like Beavis from Beavis and Butthead.

Avatar image for megakick

Looks very nice.

Avatar image for NeoIostars

being a mediocre-skilled gamer, I have some fears before getting this game because I'm terrible at bullet hell and platforming games (yes, there is a shoot 'em up bullet hell section in one stage), but the gorgeous art design, twisted fairy tale-like presentation and excellent soundtrack drew me in, and I ended up loving this game much more than I thought I would. I just unlocked the true ending last night, and I must say it was worth it. It's difficult, yes, but not impossible. Think of this as a side-scrolling Demon's/Dark Souls; you just need to learn the game and keep an open mind.

Avatar image for StonerDemon

Seems good, and very similar to the castlevania 2D games. Ill get it after paying my current credit card's bill.

Avatar image for DinoBuster

Very fair review, but I'm a bit confused with the game getting the "Steep Learning Curve" demerit. Regardless of the difficulty, BKS is one of the most simple and straight forward games I've played in recent memory.

Avatar image for mestguy321

I enjoyed this review. I will be playing this game soon.

Black Knight Sword More Info

  • First Released Dec 11, 2012
    • PlayStation 3
    • Xbox 360
    Black Knight Sword 2D is a side-scrolling platformer from Suda-51's development house Grasshopper Manufacture.
    Average Rating45 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Black Knight Sword
    Developed by:
    Digital Reality, Grasshopper Manufacture
    Published by:
    D3Publisher, Digital Reality
    2D, Platformer, Action
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Blood and Gore, Intense Violence