There really isn’t any other way to describe A Bastard’s Tale other than extremely old school. It’s tough, it’s straightforward, and the art and music design are ripped straight from the 80’s and 90’s. It’s also short. Really, really short. Don’t get me wrong as you’ll die a bunch of times which contributes to the length but if you know what you’re doing, expect this five dollar game to last thirty minutes. But there is a certain amount of glamour through the unfair nostalgia. That’s why it’s mostly up to your tastes if this title is worth it.
Usually I start my reviews with the story or plot. However, A Bastard’s Tale has no discernible tale to tell so I’ll make up my own based on the game’s presentation. You play as a legendary knight of old who has finally snapped and had it with the medieval world he resides in. You decide that it’s about time you are king and make your way to the kingdom’s only castle. However, the citizens of the land, who greatly enjoy their freedom, hear about your conquest and try everything in their meager power to stop you. Farmhands, rookie fighters, experienced warriors, duelist knights, and even livestock will try to put a stop to your tyranny before it even begins.
There are five levels to traverse through and as I mentioned they’re not very long. The challenge and long completion times come from the enemy types and gameplay. They each have their own distinct style though from farmlands, deserts, creepy woods, and a castle all set in a medieval setting. As such your would be king-stoppers are are also based on that time. You literally have simple farmers and citizens trying to stop you and then experienced fighters and knights. All of which are nicely designed in old school graphics. Nostalgia certainly was in play here for both the environments and those within in.
The gameplay is another aspect entirely. A Bastard’s Tale tasks you with simply walking to the right and coming across enemies. At this point you just have to attack, block, or roll. It sounds simple, and it is against certain enemies, but you’ll find yourself cursing all the same. You attack with a sword to the left, right, or above. Some enemies will block a certain direction and you have to choose the correct attack to do damage. They also have health bars above their head but they’re very vague and you won’t be focusing on them too much. Then you can also block attacks to the left, right, and above. Unfortunately, there are certain opponents who need to be defeated by a well timed attack rather than defending. Also, there’s a straightforward back roll to hopefully get you out of a hairy situation.
Now before I get into my problems with the title, let me say the core gameplay itself is fun. Most of the time it’s very methodical and you have to pace yourself which is great. Plus, it’s very satisfying when you take down a difficult adversary. Sadly, it’s some of those adversaries that make A Bastard’s Tale a straight, unfair kick to the crotch. Compared to the warriors that matter, your range and speed is negligible. Which would be fine except for how you tell which way to defend. Some attackers’ art design or the way they block will obscure the direction of their arms. This is how you tell which way to defend and you can’t block what you can’t see. Unless you’re Daredevil but that’s not the case here.
Another small issue I had was with the control scheme for blocking. For some reason to block left involves the circle button and to block right is the square button. It may be just me but having the left-side and right-side shape buttons doing the opposite was confusing. The last problem wasn’t really a con but when combined with the other issues, it is. You take a lot of damage per hit. To the point where if you even get hit once you’ll feel like just restarting the level. In other words one wrong move could mean the death of you. There are potions to pick up and use but they had to be sparse to match up with the type of game this was.
When and if you finish the short but extremely difficult story, there is also an endless fighter mode. Essentially you still walk to the right and kill things through all the levels. It’s up to you to survive and kill as many enemies as you can before dying. This mode felt similar to the days of old side-scrollers but the problems I mentioned persist here too. When it’s all said and done though, the game can be fixed with a simple palette swap and motion designs.
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