Before Blizzard Entertainment gained fame for titles like Starcraft and Warcraft, they developed a range of games for various platforms, including the PC, Super Nintendo, and Sega Genesis. Among these was the classic platform-based puzzle game, Blackthorne.
Now, after titles like Rock ‘N Roll Racing and The Lost Vikings have been successfully ported to the Game Boy Advance, it’s Blackthorne’s turn to shine in the handheld realm.
Gameplay: A Fusion of Prince of Persia and Turok
Blackthorne introduces us to Kyle Blackthorne, a shotgun-wielding warrior with a distinctive appearance – long hair and face paint. The game’s 16 side-scrolling levels are akin to intricate puzzles, riddled with pitfalls, cliffs, and switches.
Kyle possesses fundamental movements like running, jumping, somersaulting, and ladder climbing. However, the real challenge lies in understanding how to navigate the environment to transition safely from one area to another. For instance, when approaching a ledge, you have the choice to leap across, descend, or dangle and drop.
At times, executing a perfectly timed leap is the only way to reach the opposite ledge. A significant portion of the game’s challenge stems from surviving such situations, as a fall from a great height can lead to substantial health loss. Inside dungeons, allies may provide health potions and essential items like bombs, keys, and levitating platforms.
One notable departure from games like Prince of Persia or Flashback is that in Blackthorne, the main character is always armed. With the press of a button, Kyle readies his shotgun, offering both straightforward and stylish firing options.
Combat isn’t the game’s central focus; instead, it adds an extra layer of challenge while you hunt for crucial items. Interestingly, you can target allies just as easily as enemies, which can serve as a form of catharsis when you’re struggling to locate a specific item.
Backtracking: Maximizing Puzzles and Platforming
As with many puzzle-platformers, Blackthorne capitalizes on the need for backtracking. Certain puzzles demand you trigger a switch and swiftly pass through a doorway before it seals shut. Failing means retracing your steps to the switch and attempting again.
Frequently, a gate or elevator near the level’s start necessitates a key found towards the end, compelling you to successfully navigate all challenges multiple times. Some players relish this element, while others may feel it artificially extends the game’s duration. Despite this tendency, Blackthorne doesn’t qualify as an overly lengthy game. Most players should be able to complete it in around five to six hours.
GBA Version: Progress-Saving and Visuals
While one might assume that the GBA version is a direct port of the Super NES game, notable differences separate the two. Notably, the GBA edition employs an automatic save system, a departure from the password-based system used in previous versions.
On the visual front, there’s a mixed bag. The levels carry a dark, gothic ambiance, and character animation is impressively fluid. However, the color palette is notably limited, occasionally resembling an 8-bit NES or Master System game rather than a Super NES or GBA title.
In terms of audio, the game delivers adequately. Digitized sound samples depict effects like footsteps and screams, while the soundtrack establishes a fittingly eerie tone, employing a diverse range of instruments.
Despite graphical limitations, Blackthorne’s gameplay and atmosphere remain as satisfying today as they were on the Super NES nearly a decade ago. This game comes highly recommended for enthusiasts of platform-based puzzle games.
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