Bard’s Gold is a 2D platformer with rogue-like elements from developers Erdem and Jenner Sen. The game was successfully started through a Steam Greenlight project and is now on PS4 and Vita.
The game starts out with a very short cutscene that gives a few story details. Bard’s family treasure is stolen and its your job to get it back. The gold coin that is stolen is a family heirloom that actually contains a demonic being, so in the wrong hands its bad news. What I actually love about this game is how it throws you pretty much straight into the game without holding your hand or telling you what to do. You have to learn things for yourself, even if it means dying a lot.
There’s no tutorial to get you started so you have to just experiment and see what works. The game almost feels like a classic SNES game in the sense that its challenging, takes time to master and has a pixel art style. The games main focus is platforming and enemy encounters that are very difficult right from the get go. The game is played out through a series of rooms that look similar to the platformer Rogue Legacy. Each room has a door that has to be unlocked with a key that’s placed somewhere in that room, usually somewhere tricky. The game may look simple in terms of design but obtaining that key often proves to be incredibly challenging. The game is fairly slow-paced and methodical, or at least that’s how I think its best to play if you want to get anywhere. The game has rogue-like elements but in normal mode it’s not a complete reset when you die. The loot you gather can be used to upgrade various attributes that carry over into your next run. After completing six rooms, you then enter the seventh room that contains a boss.
Controls in the game are simple and pretty much what you would expect from a rogue-like platformer. You can move around with the analogue stick or the D-pad, which I prefer for this type of game. You can jump and also perform a double jump to reach slightly higher ledges. You also have a basic attack where you throw daggers, which don’t travel very far. There’s plenty, if not too much to handle during each room, whether its falling spikes, arrows or multiple types of enemies. Once all of your lives have been used up you then have to restart. The doors you have unlocked in the main hallway however remain open. You will die a lot, mainly due to the challenging rooms but also the fact that one hit will kill you and on the flip side it takes you multiple daggers to kill enemies. Some enemies are easy enough, like slow-moving blobs, but some are more troublesome, like flying books that move around in chaotic fashion and can easily catch you off-guard. Not only that there are arrows from both sides and spikes that fall down, meaning you have to constantly be on your toes. It’s also important for me to mention that on top of all that there is a timer that can end up making things even more ridiculous. Once the timer has run out fire will start to fall down from above.
The level design is simple but well designed and thought out, providing some interesting challenges. You may think its best to just get the key as quick as you can and get out of there but every enemy actually gives you gems when you kill them, so its worth trying to kill as many as possible and upgrade your stats. This will make future runs just that little bit easier. Also during some rooms there are shops that allow you to spend your hard-earned loot that greatly help your progress. Like many classic platformers this game also has plenty of hidden items and things to discover. You can find all sorts of things like pieces of maps, gems, and other valuable goodies. These can be often found by throwing your daggers at invisible blocks, much like the invisible blocks that are found in the Mario games. The ability to upgrade your stats gives the game some RPG elements that work really well and give you a reason to try and gather as much loot as possible. There’s plenty to upgrade and each category makes things a lot more manageable once you start to level up.
The presentation of the game is nice and like I said it uses a pixel art style with well designed levels and creatures. The environments do tend to feel a bit dull in terms of colour scheme but the actual layout and structure of levels is good. I would have liked to have seen a bit more flair and personality within the stages and a good example of a game that really manages to have not only great gameplay but also interesting and varied levels is something like Shovel Knight. The sound design is ok but not fantastic, again a perfect example of how to do this is Shovel Knight or classic Mega Man games. The music is engaging enough but never really ramps up or adds any tension to what is actually a very challenging game.
I did enjoy the game a lot but I did have a couple of issues, which were annoying but not game breaking. Firstly, your primary attack is fairly useless and upgrading and buying from shops can be tedious as you don’t really have any idea what you’re buying until you try it out. Also levels start to become repetitive and I can see some players being put off by the constant grinding you have to do. I would have like to have seen some more variation as you progress.
Overall I enjoyed playing Bard’s Gold and the challenging gameplay it had to offer. It’s incredibly hard and you will die a lot, which is the idea, as you gather loot, die, upgrade and go again until you are strong enough to progress. This is certainly a game that requires practice and patience but once you start to get a grasp on the gameplay loop and enemy types it can be very fun. The presentation is fine but I would have liked to have seen more variety in the levels and colour schemes. There’s plenty to discover here and if you can stick with it you can sink plenty of hours into it. I would recommend this game if you like games like Rogue Legacy or Shovel Knight.
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