With a swift slash of a sword, Goblin Sword quickly makes a spectacular and swashbuckling statement on your phone that you’re unlikely to forget for a while. Yes, deliciously pixelated retro platformers seem to be all the rage these days, so naturally there’s a danger that any game falling into this category might become superfluous. But fear not, my fellow knights, because Gelato Games’ miniature epic Goblin Sword definitely stands out from the pack.
As you begin playing, the first thing you’ll probably notice is the devotion that’s been invested into the artwork. Whether it’s the chibi style characters, bobbing up and down in all their glory, the smorgasbord of enemies, or the lush backgrounds, every pixel of this game has been crafted with love. You play as a heroic knight, equipped with a basic iron sword and clad in matching rusty armor, which certainly leaves a lot of room for upgrades. Fortunately, you can visit the local merchant to do just that. Based on how many coins you’ve managed to amass, which are the currency in Goblin Sword, you’re free to purchase stronger, faster, and more ranged weaponry, varying styles of armor, and special relics that will assist you on your quest.
Moving around in Goblin Sword is simple, exciting, and engaging as heck. You have the basic slash and run mechanic, as well as a double jump feature which allows you to reach greater heights. One critique I have for the control system is that the A button is assigned to ‘attack,’ and B is assigned to ‘jump,’ which goes against the great majority of other game controls. However, with enough practice and a little getting used to, it doesn’t detract from gameplay much at all.
Enemies in Goblin Sword are as diverse as the rainbow, and although you might hate them at first, you learn to love them. And memorize their attacks. There are ghosts. There are gargoyles. There are stagnant snakes, flying skulls, purple ogres, miniscule bats, and axe wielding goblins, and dear God do they all have uncannily-accurate aim. Should you reach the Dark Caves, you’ll have to contend with these enemies while simultaneously avoiding the spikes, lava pits, and fire-breathing statues. There is truly never a dull moment.
Goblin Sword features a three heart health system, which can be increased by locating heart potions during gameplay. As a knight, you have your standard sword as a weapon, but you also have multiple armors and relics to collect, some of which can be bought, and others which can be found. The more powerful swords have special attacks which use up your magic meter (shown in blue below the coin tally). You’ll also be required to collect coins, gems of various colors, magic gems that pulsate and also boost your magic meter, and an assortment of souvenirs like lamps, clocks, and chandeliers to decorate your home with. By visiting your home where your grandfather is stationed, you’ll also be able to view a series of sidequests to complete, such as defeating a level without killing a single enemy, or purchasing all armors.
While not an entirely new concept, I felt that the narrative in Goblin Sword was quite well done, and sufficiently different to make it a very worthwhile gaming experience. This is especially true of the multiple, varied endings, which makes the experience feel a bit like a ‘choose your own adventure’ novel, in that your decisions can impact the ending of the game. Presenting a dramatic cutscene at the demise of the final boss, the Dark Wizard, really added to the game’s value. Not only did it feel like I was watching a cartoon, but it felt like a cartoon that I had some control over.
The difficulty in Goblin Sword increases as you go along, though some bosses in the latter stages should have been slightly harder. The weapons you use definitely make all the difference between a battle being easy or downright frustrating, so I highly recommend upgrading your swords and equipping different relics prior to battle. At the beginning, you might find the enemies slightly overpowered, and I felt slightly discouraged by the lack of a temporary invincibility barrier after I just got hit. Nevertheless, the primary question is: Is Goblin Sword fun? The answer to that is a big yes, my fellow knights. It makes you want to beat it, it doesn’t become too frustrating, and it always encourages you to explore further. And of course, slaying hordes of monsters never gets old.
On the more musical side of things, the symphonic rock soundtrack is absolutely on point with the medieval theme of the game, and gives Goblin Sword that epic battle feel. However, the same tune is repeated in each level, changing only when you access a new area on the map, so the music can sometimes become monotonous. In contrast, no matter how many times you slash your sword, collect coins, or hearts, or gems, the sound effects are just pleasing to the ear, and make gameplay an utter joy.
Overall, the game has seamless structure and layout, which is evident in the world map feature, and the organization of multiple levels in each area. Transitioning from each area back to your home or the merchant was fluent and very natural, and being able to automatically replay failed levels without having to wait only bolstered my enthusiasm for the game. The length could have definitely been stretched a bit more, as I expected far more unlockable areas on the world map. Goblin Sword really does do a fine job of making the player anticipate new levels, and keeps curiosity alive with its hidden crystals, treasures, and secret areas that are rendered inconspicuous by ersatz walls. I think there is very strong potential for Goblin Sword to work on other gaming platforms, whether it be on console or PC, and imagine the experience would only magnify in awesomeness on a big screen. Goblin Sword demands a sequel.
You can purchase Goblin Sword today for just $0.99 from the App store. The price point is excellent considering the amount of adventure packed into this pocket-sized gem. For the latest updates from Gelato Games, make sure to follow them on Twitter and check out their website. And don’t forget to follow IGM for awesome game news, reviews, interviews, advice on how to be a knight, and so much more.