Blades of Time Review
Made2Game Blades of Time score: 6/10
Formats: PS3, Xbox 360
Format Reviewed: Xbox 360
Developer: Gaijin Entertainment
Reviewer: James Bowden
It's amazing how much difference one little good idea can make.
X-blades, Blades of Time's scantily clad predecessor, was a mite light in the inspiration department, offering little more than some simple slashing action and a distinct lack of covering garments. Blades of Time may present similarly basic battering, and a character that still fails to understand the concept of modesty, but it marries its mindless button mashing to a genuinely brilliant time rewind mechanic that turns what could have been something forgettable into something, well, actually rather enjoyable.
Taming of the Screw
Blades of Time tells the tale of treasure hunter Ayumi. Whisked to the mysterious Dragonland, which is disappointingly lacking in fire breathing lizards, Ayumi is in search of great treasure - because that's what she does - but soon finds that the land is a death trap of monsters, ancient tombs and mysterious races that would rather see trespassers heads on pikes before they consider engaging in conversation - because that's what always happens. In truth though, the plot is a complete car crash of ghastly voice acting married to a script that would make even a porn writer's ties curl.
The brunt of the issues can be placed on the petite and barely covered shoulders of Ayumi, who's inner monologue is the biggest offender of the piece. Our heroine seems to have a comment about everything, but never anything much constructive. She often states clear and obvious facts, often repeats herself, or just going off on completely befudlingly thought tangents.
One room, quite clearly filled with lava, sees Ayumi state ''Oh god, it's so hot here. I hope this path doesn't lead me to the centre of the world. If I hadn't come here on my own, I'd have throught that I was in hell right now. Maybe I am in hell? Oh well, who knows." Take that, Shakespeare. Oh, and if you murder a ship full of humans in this fiction you are 'weird', apparently. Just weird. Not inhuman, monstrous, insane or a villain, you're just weird. Yhe same stature often attributed to someone who actually enjoys Glee, slapped on you for killing a ship full of living human beings. You weirdo.
Thing is that for all this apparent hate, the script and delivery is so cheek redden-ingly, face contorting-ly abysmal that it's almost hilarious, and absolutely entertaining completely in spite of itself. While it's unfortunate that the locales, villains and events are never off the wall enough to make the plot recommendably bizarre, the fact that the game surrounding it is actually rather fun means you can just about accept it as the utter nonsense that it is while enjoying the combat.
The Comedy of Errors
The game itself is a basic hack and slash affair. Light and heavy are your two main methods of attack, while magic can be earned and unleashed through combos and a ranged gun can be employed to add some diversity to your assault. On the defence side of things, you can dodge using a nippy slide. You'll pick up extra magic throughout the game to further enhance your abilities and before long you'll feel like a truly powerful force.
This combat is ultimately basic however and it's Blades of Time's party trick that saves it, and that is your ability to rewind time. Not to be confused with a Prince of Persia style Mulligan, Blades of Time's rewind leaves you stationary and reverses the world around you but it also creates a shade of your actions that will play out when you let go. Yes, it's been done before in games such as Braid and The Adventures of P. B. Winterbottom, and Blades does have some button puzzle interludes reminiscent of these titles, but in combat this mechanic feels as fresh as a daisy grown on Volvic.
Thing is, there isn't much in way of a limit to the number of shades you can create, and seeing a gaggle of Ayumi's all going melee, magic and gun crazy on a bunch of foes simultaneously, knowing you set them all up, is both empowering, chaotic, messy and hugely, hugely satisfying.
Heavy enemies are equally entertaining to eliminate, as you set up a circle of ferocious rifle fire to cover your final ferocious flurry. Then there's toying around with magic, or landing an earthquake and setting up several Ayumi's all juggling an individual foe. Or devising your own covering fire, aggressive advance, front and rear assault on a boss.
There's a sense of playful ad lib to the system that feels simultaneously liberating and empowering. Sure, it's not going to worry Bayonetta any time soon but it's experimental fun regardless, and that's honestly something I wish could be said about big budget mainstream titles more often. If anything the time rewinding feels a little unfair on the denizens of Dragonland but screw them, we're having fun and they glared at us first. Sides, they probably killed a load of humans in their time. Weirdos.
All's Well that Ends Well
It's not all rosy though as issues do crop up. Some smaller enemies are too fast and skittish to present entertaining challenges, falling on the side of simply irritating, while fights that remove your rewind power just end up showing the game up as the button basher it really is. The game did also crash a few times while I was playing. Oh and the DOTA style multiplayer side game is a largely throwaway addition with none of the single players inspiration present, serving only to feel like a waste of disc space.
But even as I recall these issues my mind returns to those sections that do let you screw with the fight and your enemies with those time manipulating skills, those messy, creative, beautiful time manipulating skills. There was one time where I set up a firing line of four Ayumi's to eliminate a wall of four enemies you know. And another when I created a wall of pain, four huge attack shockwaves of various magics... Brilliant.
Blades of Time is the video game equivalent of a three legged stray moggie that suddenly starts juggling and playing the Trombone for a few minutes before reverting to looking miserable and gouging fleas from its hind quarters. Sure it's ugly, largely basic and only really does that one trick but that one idea is so entertaining that Blades of Time genuinly manages to operate far above its station because of it, making time spent in its company somewhat endearing and almost charming. Almost.
It's amazing how much difference one little good idea can make.
Words by James Bowden (Twitter: @Dalagonash)
- Related Games
- Blades of Time
Silent Hill 2 and 3 go under the HD surgeon's knife, but do they come to looking better or worse? Review by Joanne Kendrick.
The eighth entry in Konami's iconic franchise has arrived, but is Silent Hill beginning to show its age?
A quick look at the week's big releases