Release Date: Feb 13, 2020
Rating: E (Everyone)
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
What’s It About?
Goblin Sword is an action-platformer by Gelato Games that has finally made it onto Nintendo Switch after releasing on mobile a few years ago. Although the game features some RPG elements, it’s mostly a Castlevania-style game where players dodge spikey contraptions, wizards with fireball spells, orcs with spears, and so much more!
The premise is pretty simple: a dark wizard named Thordus is trying to overtake the world after obtaining a legendary sword, and you have to stop him. In order to do this, you’ll have to fight your way through almost 100 levels, just over a dozen bosses, and die countless times. You can also collect souvenirs for your home and save up gems in order to buy impressive new swords and gear. If that weren’t enough, there are “Side Quests” where you can do things like “break 100 pots” or “blow out 10 torches.” In other words, there’s a lot you can do here that goes beyond just a standard platforming adventure. And if you’re a completionist, you could realistically sink dozens of hours into this game just trying to collect everything. Not bad for five bucks, huh?
Well, there’s a lot. So, where do we begin? First off, there’s the price tag. I’m sure a lot of people will be enticed to give Goblin Sword a twirl just because it’s so darn inexpensive. And, honestly, it’s one of the best games you can buy for only five dollars. It’s also extremely addictive. I started playing this indie game the same day as a highly-anticipated AAA game, and guess which one I played more?
I seriously couldn’t put this game down. I spent hours playing through the first deceptively simple levels, attempting to collect all the crystals, treasure chests, and gems that I could find. If I was waylaid by a tricky boss or a particularly difficult level, I couldn’t put the game down until I’d overcome them. And speaking of the bosses, they’re pretty great overall. They mostly rely on dodging at the right second or swiping your sword as fast as possible, but Gelato Games has struck a pretty good balance of creating bosses that are challenging without being frustratingly hard. For reference, it often took me several tries to bring a boss down, but I never wanted to throw my Switch in fury because a boss was just too darn difficult.
And if you’re looking for a challenge, the level design of Goblin Sword is certainly worth noting. While I breezed through the first few levels and incorrectly assumed the whole game was going to be this easy, it didn’t take long before I started having to put some thought into how I was going to beat each level–especially if I wanted to collect all the loot along the way. While some of the maps can feel a bit repetitive, and most of the levels themselves are somewhat unmemorable, they work really well together as a whole.
While the music isn’t exactly bombastic or catchy, the graphics have a distinctive ’90s feel to them that will be nostalgic to gamers of a certain age while still appealing to a younger audience. The color palettes used are reminiscent of some of my favorite RPGs from the ’90s, including Chrono Trigger and Dragon Quest. The enemies, increasing challenge, and bosses actually remind me of another of my favorite games from that era: Duck Tales. You heard that right. And it’s one of the best compliments I could give a game like this.
If you’re looking for a great story, then don’t look here. Goblin Sword isn’t so much about the story as the gameplay, and the gameplay is great. You spend most of your time double-jumping your way across precarious ruins with spikey floors and various enemies, ranging from mages and goblins to warriors, demons, and even dragons. You can purchase different swords, which have different effects and power-ups. You can buy and equip different rings, so you can prioritize collecting coins off enemies to buy more goodies or collecting hearts in the hopes you survive a bit longer. And if you don’t care about collecting stuff but just want to make it to the final boss? You can do that! Kinda.
I’m all for collecting in a video game. Still, Goblin Sword pushes even my limits. Sometimes, especially late in the game, your advancement through levels and the story is very dependent on how much stuff you’ve collected. And there’s a ton of stuff to nab in this game! It can be a bit overwhelming, especially when you’re practically forced to do it on multiple occasions.
The story and music are also duds. After sitting the game down for five minutes, I can’t hum a single tune from it. And I know I said you don’t play a game like Goblin Sword for the story, but it still has one! This is mostly done through some scant NPC dialogue that you may or may not even read. And it’s not super great. In fact, I was a bit surprised when I unlocked the “Good Ending.” The game had been so absent of plot that it was weird having such a story-centric ending.
If you want to try to obtain every weapon, piece of armor, and souvenir, then you’re going to have to grind. You’re going to have to grind a lot. I eventually gave up and decided it wasn’t worth it. That’s not typically what I want in a platformer. I want fun, engaging levels and bosses (which this game has). I don’t want to replay the same level twenty times trying to farm enough gold to get a sword I’m only going to use twice. Most of this, thankfully, is optional.
What’s really not optional is your health. You only get three hearts in the game. If you want more, you have to collect four heart potions to get another heart. There are only a total of three extra hearts in the entire game. And these potions are really well hidden. It can make later bosses pretty hard, and it can get very frustrating searching levels for disappearing walls and secret corridors. It would’ve been nice if they’d taken a note from The Legend of Zelda‘s book and given players an extra heart (or, heck, even a heart piece) after defeating each boss.
I know I’ve spent the last several paragraphs complaining about what I found wrong with Goblin Sword, but don’t let that fool you. I thoroughly enjoyed this game. I think the replay value is extremely high, and I’d recommend it for anyone with an extra few bucks lying around. It’s well worth your time and money. Despite a few flaws that keep it from being a perfect game, Goblin Sword is fantastic. I can’t wait to see what Gelato Games cooks up next.