Blackwind Review (Switch eShop) | Nintendo’s life
Once upon a time in an unfortunate culinary incident, this writer managed to accidentally create a literally flavorless bowl of Jell-O. The Jell-O (that’s jelly for you UK people) was cold, completely clear, chewy and managed to leave a massive impression, purely because of how its flavor left absolutely no impression. It was horrible and it was fascinating.
Blackwind is the video game equivalent of this Jell-O. In many ways, it feels like an AI-generated game rolled off a treadmill after operators typed in “sci-fi hack ‘n’ slash” to see what would happen. Does that mean it’s bad? Probably not. Does that mean it’s good? Absolutely not.
Blackwind’s story puts you in the shoes of a whiny kid named Jimmy, who is on a weapons transport with his genius techie dad destined to be delivered to a distant planet. Jimmy’s dad just finished putting the finishing touches on a new AI-powered robot suit that’s supposed to revolutionize combat, but he barely has time to tell you before he’s very suddenly and conveniently ” killed” during an attack on the ship which also sees Jimmy don the suit. After crash-landing on the planet below and waking up to his new AI companion, Jimmy therefore sets out to battle many generic aliens and hopefully find his possibly less than deceased father.
We’ll be blunt here: the story isn’t good. Jimmy has a personality vaguely reminiscent of Sokka from Avatar: The Last Airbender, but with a tenth of the charisma and none of the sympathy. He spends most of his journey asking extremely obvious questions of his AI companion, who responds in the most forced “sophisticated” voice imaginable. The narrative otherwise follows extremely tropical beats about greed and corruption while plot twists are telegraphed and easily guessed. It’s all backed up by some of the worst voice acting we’ve heard in a modern game, reminiscent of the quaint, goofy performances that were all the rage in the mid-90s.
Gameplay takes the form of a typical hack ‘n’ slash platformer, with the camera generally giving you a top-down view of the action. Jimmy explores a series of semi-linear levels that you can quickly travel between, and these are all filled with a litany of combat encounters, confusing sections, and platforming. Sounds good, right? Well… it’s not.
The combat is about as insane and copy/pasted as it gets, combining you with a series of light and heavy attacks to slash enemies up close and deploy ranged abilities like missiles or laser blasts from afar. It sounds great in concept, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. Most enemies put up pathetic resistance and melt easily before your clearly superior technology, but once in a while there will be either a sudden very powerful enemy that kills you with a few hits or your mech will hang on to some level geometry while Jimmy suffers a death by a thousand cuts. Controls constantly feel jerky and unresponsive, and there’s not much feedback on the action.
You pilot what appears to be a very heavy robot, but ironically none of the blows you land carry any substantial weight. Worse still, this all happens as Jimmy repeats the same cringeful five or six lines as he fights. For example, we had a case where we had to endure Jimmy chanting “Who’s the best?” four (!!!) times in a row, as we watched him perform the same basic running move over and over.
The combat is therefore straightforward and unsatisfying, but things are made even worse by the camera. The right stick controls where Jimmy aims his arm cannon, so the camera just does its best to frame the action, whether you’re in combat or exploring a level. The problem is that he does a terrible job. We lost count of the number of times several of the enemies we were fighting jumped off screen, leaving us no choice but to guess where we should swing or shoot next when the enemies had no problem raining down shots beyond the view of the camera. Then there were several times where it wasn’t clear exactly where or how far we needed to jump for the platforming sections, which led to several failed attempts. In a game as action-heavy as Blackwind, it’s frankly baffling that the player has no control over where to place the camera, and you’re reminded of this glaring problem almost constantly.
Things get a bit better when you’re in the more exploration-focused parts of levels, especially after the introduction of a drone you can fly to access areas the mech can’t. The puzzles are mildly satisfying and there are hidden collectibles to find that can enhance your robot’s abilities. The problem here, however, is that the card system poorly assists the player. There’s a minimap for most areas you can explore, but there’s no way to expand it and take a closer look. Combine that with surprisingly large and labyrinthine levels, and it can be infuriating to realize that you’ve missed an essential key or button somewhere and have no meaningful way of determining where it might be.
Destroying environmental objects in levels and killing enemies rewards Jimmy with blue orbs, which can then be spent at save points scattered throughout each of the levels. These then open up a series of skill trees where you can boost things like damage output and unlock new moves. Skill trees are fine, but they’re simple in design and don’t leave much room for experimentation. Also, some of the descriptions are rather vaguely worded. For example, one of the upgrades says “Dashing is increased by 10%”. What is it increased? The dash distance? Speed? i-frames? Who knows?
Presentation-wise, Blackwind is unsurprisingly not much to look at, but that doesn’t mean it looks terrible. Fighting and exploring generic environments (forests, mountains, labs, etc.) inspires little admiration, and it doesn’t take long to recognize recurring assets used in any given area. Meanwhile, performance at least manages to consistently maintain what feels like 30FPS, which keeps Blackwind from feeling too janky in the most intense sections.
Considering all of the above, it seems that Blackwind’s main problem stems from the fact that it abjectly refuses to try to do whatever to stand out from the crowd. Battles are simple button-mashing affairs. Platform challenges are simple and easy. The story is riddled with tired tropes. There is nothing to remember with this game, nothing to point out and say this This is why people should play Blackwind. Of course, the combat, the platform and the story are fine, but it’s not the kind of game you play and you feel satisfied that you did. It’s just… there.
Blackwind is as utilitarian as a bank statement and painfully in between. It’s hard to recommend you play this game, as we hardly remember anything notable about it from our own game. destined for the trash. If you’re looking for an utterly mundane and unoriginal sci-fi themed hack ‘n’ slash, Blackwind certainly ticks those boxes. Unfortunately, if you’re looking for a meaningful way to spend your limited time and hard-earned cash, this isn’t it. We won’t go so far as to say that you should definitely pass on Blackwind, but we’d totally understand if you did.