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Game Info:

Thy Sword
Developed by: GamePhase
Published by: Ratalaika Games
Release date: May 15, 2020 (Switch); May 13, 2020 (Xbox One); May 12, 2020 (PS4, PS Vita); November 14, 2017 (PC)
Available on: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One, Windows
Genre: Hack-and-slash platformer
Number of players: Single player, local 2-player co-op and competitive
ESRB Rating: T for Blood, Violence, and Simulated Gambling
Price: $9.99

Thank you, Ratalaika Games, for sending us a review key!

Thy Sword seeks to emulate decades-old platformer action games such as Barbarian and Bubble Bobble. I have little experience with most of its inspirations. Still, this game is at its most fun and reliable in the moment-to-moment gameplay inspired by the classics. Tight controls, predictable enemy patterns, and satisfying feedback in combat make the events on-screen at any one time a joy. At a higher level, Thy Sword does not hold up as well. The randomly-generated level layouts and shop stock do not significantly alter gameplay from playthrough to playthrough. Character unlocks add a bit of variety, but the staying power of Thy Sword is directly related to how much fun the player has in one screen of gameplay. If a careful dance of jumping and slicing satisfies, then Thy Sword is an easy recommendation.

The narrative of Thy Sword is mostly told in charming written rhyming verse. It is also entirely unimportant. The player is a warrior who must defeat the Dark Overlord with “thy sword” (or bow, as the case may be). Levels usually come in a set of five screens filled with platforms and enemies. Once the enemies are killed, the door to the next screen unlocks. Enemies drop money which is used between levels to buy upgraded equipment, regain health, and play Blackjack with a group gathered around a small pixel campfire. Many areas end in a boss battle. Each boss is good - so good that they stay the same on every playthrough. You can adjust how much progress through the levels is lost when you die, from none of it to all of it, depending on the difficulty level.

Combat and platforming are simple and entertaining. Thy Sword provides tools that could, I believe, allow one to play without ever taking damage. Most attacks can be blocked, and enemies telegraph what they are about to do. They can also be strategically separated from each other to enable safer approaches. Occasionally, a bird with a key will fly by and can be defeated to unlock a treasure chest. Traps (spikes and exploding barrels) and environmental hazards (lava and respawning bats, for example) mix things up from level to level. When I took damage, it always felt like I’d made a preventable mistake. Even bosses follow short predictable patterns. They may be hard to beat on a first try, but once they’ve shown all their attacks, they can be managed.

Thy Sword
Highlights:

Strong Points: Solid controls for perfectible combat; satisfying sound effects and visual feedback; reasonable difficulty levels
Weak Points: Little variation on repeated playthroughs; curious glitches in long-term progression
Moral Warnings: Pixelated combat, blood, and beheading; sorcerer enemies with projectile magic

This is not to say Thy Sword is easy. Rare health drops demand careful play. Getting carried away hacking at corpses (which the game encourages with extra treasure) can open the player up to hits from behind. Higher-risk moves like chasing the bird with the key or using a slow special attack to decapitate enemies in one hit come with higher rewards in the form of money. Bosses take long enough that beating them is more a matter of focus and steady execution than reflexes. Difficulty levels do not change what enemies do; rather, they change what happens when you die. On the easiest difficulty, retries are free. On medium, you start with three extra lives, with the option to buy more from the shop. On hard, there is only one life.

Store equipment upgrades enable double jumps, enhance speed, increase health or damage, and so on. Bows and arrows can also be purchased or used from the start with the right character. More characters, and thus more starting equipment and levels of health, can be unlocked. This would be the only source of persistent progression, if it worked. On my Switch, I unlocked a character and used it. While using it, I seemed to unlock the character again. After a few new games, the character was no longer available. A different character was supposedly unlocked, as well, but has never shown up as an option. It is not clear to me what isn’t working or if this problem is unique to the Switch port. Unfortunately, character unlocking was my primary hope of variety. The game is generally stable; glitches in the character unlock system are disappointing.

Thy Sword
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 82%
Gameplay - 15/20
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 8/10
Stability - 4/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 82%
Violence - 4/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

In addition to single player, Thy Sword allows the story to be played with two players cooperatively. Gameplay remains otherwise similar. Friendly fire is on, and the one-hit kill decapitation move works on players. This also applies to the simple two player deathmatch mode. Item drops are randomized, and players fight until one has fallen. It works well enough, but I hold a slight grudge against this mode because it was after playing it that my game forgot about my unlocked character.

The pixel art, if not beautiful, conveys all that it needs to. Decapitations, blood, and magic are identifiable without seeming overly gory. Sound effects contribute to the feeling of power provided by the combat. The music is created with the same sound system as the Commodore 64 and fits the mood well. If vibration is on, the Switch controllers will rumble with attacks, damage, and death. Again, the feeling of playing any one screen is satisfying.

I’m not sure how long any particular person would enjoy Thy Sword. If playing straight through on easy mode, the game will last a couple of hours. That is, in one sense, everything the game has to offer. Other characters provide different health and starting equipment, and randomized layouts don’t change the level progression or enemy pool significantly. In another sense, Thy Sword offers solid entertainment as long as clearing each screen remains engaging. If 2D hack-and-slash is what you want, Thy Sword will provide. I just think it might not provide as much variety as you hope for.

About the Author

Sam George

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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