Release Date: 05/03/2019
Price as of Article: $8.99, £7.99
Game code provided by Pixel Lantern
The story in Bard’s Gold is kept to the Bard minimum
I like my games with a lot of story. I find story driven gaming to be the purest form of interactive storytelling, so unluckily for me, the story here is basically told on the title screen with our little tanned muscular bard-dude chasing a goblin down a well to retrieve his gold (clues in the title). However, games in general, especially this type of rogue-like experience, are mostly about game play and this is an old school platforming experience, so I won’t judge it too harshly on the story aspect. There is also a bit of exposition to the tale on the game’s steam description, but this doesn’t add much.
A bard killing two blobs with one stone
Bard’s Gold is a rogue-like adventure with multiple game play settings which are normal: rogue-like and hardcore, all with varying degrees of health, random generation, and amount of spoils you find. It took me a while to get used to the controls as there was no real explanation on what to do, which is all part of the old school feel and touted as a feature of this game, but I just found the lack of explanation frustrating.
For example, I didn’t realise you could double jump at first, so I was stuck on the first room for ten minutes, wondering why I couldn’t reach a platform just above my head. Nonetheless the controls are tight.
Bard’s Gold has the “one more go” type of addictive nature that these games are known for. Basic game play loop is this: enter room, collect key, avoid or kill enemies with your dagger or purchased weapons, smash some vases, collect gems which you can either hoard to improve your life or spend on items in the shop, try not to die (harder than it seems), find door, and leave within the time limit. Rinse and repeat. Moving to the next screen, there will be a boss at the end of each world.
Overall, I found the gameplay to be enjoyable with a good degree of challenge, and I got a sense of satisfaction when I finally cleared a screen or beat a boss and unlocked the next world. Never did I feel like the platforming caused me to die needlessly but traps and awkward enemy placement made me learn each level layout through a trial and error method, similarly to Dark Souls.
Audio in Bard’s Gold is cool but repetitive after a while
I found the retro audio in Bard’s Gold to be a bit repetitive, though of a good enough quality to not be a disservice to the experience. Chirpy fantasy-style lighthearted music perpetuates each stage, but I would have liked more variety during the playtime.
I did find this rather hypnotising, though and ended up humming the music now and then to keep myself calm in between certain death by big green blobs and other annoyingly placed enemies just out of reach of my trusty dagger.
Aside from the music, other audible cues such as triggering traps and doors opening are run of the mill and work fine. Altogether, a serviceable package.
Visuals & Performance
The shop where you can Bar(d)ter your treasures for cool items such as magic glasses
Bard’s Gold’s visuals are clean and look crisp, especially on the Switch’s handheld screen. This style of game is a dime a dozen on the Switch, and although there isn’t much to look at, what is there is nice. The 4 worlds are varied enough with design and enemy types being cool, though some just look like green and red blobs and named just as imaginatively.
The game works well with a stable frame rate and no glitches that I could see. One frustration I had however, is that whenever you die, you are sent to a screen where you spent your gems on health. I found that every time I left this screen (a lot), the game would freeze and save for a few seconds, not registering any button input, and with this being a game in which you want to get straight back into the action for a new run, it added a bit more extra time.
I found with a game like this, which is challenging with many restarts, it is a be a bit of a detriment to the experience and stopped me at times when I wanted to just have that one more go at getting back into the action. A small gripe but important for me as my attention span is not the best.
This game can be a bar(d)gain if you are into this type of challenging experience
In terms of value, Bard’s Gold can either giveth or it can taketh away from the verdict. What do you want from a game under 10 dollars? A few years ago maybe you could say not much, but with the nature of the eShop today with countless titles being released and frequently slashed to a price point, similar games, some of which contain a lot of content, it’s harder to judge. However, the challenge of the game mixed with replayability and the multiple game modes on offer still give Bard’s Gold a fair amount of game for the asking price. So, if you are a fan of rouge-likes with an old school vibe, you can do a lot worse than picking this up, especially if it gets a price cut in the future.
Good game play loop
Clean crisp retro visuals
Multiple game modes that encourage replayability
A low price and a fair amount of content, coupled with tight platforming mechanics make this a good investment for fans of the genre
Game doesn’t explain its systems at all
Early cheap deaths can turn people off the experience
Could be a frustrating experience for some