‘Bard’s Gold’ Review

Platforms PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Vita, PC

Genre Platformer Platform Played Xbox One

Developer Pixel Lantern Publisher Pixel Lantern

There was a time when World War II games oversaturated the gaming market. During the PS1/N64, GameCube/PS2/Xbox and early last-gen eras, there was rarely a time where a new shooter inspired by the great war didn’t hit store shelves. The excessive releases eventually tired people out of the desire to breach the beaches of Normandy on D-Day for the umpteenth time.

I feel like the later part of the last generation and this generation of gaming has received its own version of “World War II shooters” in the form of pixelated platformers. Seriously, they are everywhere, and a majority are ultimately uninspired and forgettable.

Bard’s Gold is yet another platformer with a pixelated art direction that belongs in the forgettable category.

Like its inspirations of yesteryear’s 2D platformers, Bard’s Gold has a simple story: A goblin has stolen your family’s treasure and you must get it back. Through four worlds, players must tread through traps and creatures to reach the end goal.

While Bard’s Gold is not the worst game on the market, it has zero qualities that make it stand out.

For starters, even though the game is short at a technical two hours, maybe even less, to complete, players must endure numerous ways of tedious grinding, therefore extending its replay value in the worst of ways.

It’s clear that Bard’s Gold wanted me to learn from my mistakes, but it has many “fine” recipes that ultimately concoct a dragging gaming experience: the same boring environments — despite claiming to use a barely noticeable level generator; enemies, a fair number of which are the same with swapped color palettes, that take a while to kill with the Bard’s default weapon; frustrating hit detection that causes more deaths than I could keep up with; boss fights with cookie-cutter patterns and movements; and a monotonous score that loops in each stage.

The Bard can use gems picked up from environments, hidden paths or fallen enemies to purchase temporary upgrades, which can be anything from better weapons to speed boots to a shield that keeps all items after death and more. Upon losing lives, unspent gems are carried over to be used for permanent upgrades.

I actually enjoyed this aspect because it caused me to think about spending my (often irritatingly) earned gems. There was more than one occasion where I would caution my purchases because I knew another permanent, more handy upgrade was on the horizon.

Although the platforming itself isn’t the most enthralling, it had enjoyable qualities, most notably in the Tower of Patience, a hidden location in each world that focuses purely on platforming.

There are three different modes to choose from: Normal, Retro and Rogue-like. Normal is the default mode where players start out with four lives and are killed in one hit; Retro starts players out with two lives, enemies have twice the health, but more gems are available for grabs; and Rogue-like allows you to get hit multiple times, but there are no lives, you can earn even more gems than in Retro, the level layouts are different and there are more enemies — with the same health found in normal. Unlike Normal and Retro, however, Rogue-like does not carry over unspent gems for permanent upgrades.

I appreciate the different modes, but it was difficult for me to enjoy Normal, let alone the other two with their differences.

There are certainly worst titles out there, but there’s little fun to be found in Bard’s Gold. The irritating grinding it requires and minute replay value almost ruin the whole experience. On the other hand, the game gets a couple of things right such as the upgrade system, and there was occasional fun to be had with the platforming when I discovered the Tower of Patience in each level. At just $5 and a short story, Bard’s Gold might be — just might be — worth at least checking out at some point, but there are much better games out there on the market than yet another pixelated platformer.

The Good

  • Upgrade system
  • Platforming, especially in Tower of Patience

The Bad

  • Incredibly tedious grinding
  • Barely noticeable level generator
  • Uninspired visuals
  • Annoying hit detection errors
  • Boring, looping soundtrack
  • Little else to do once story is completed

The Score: 4/10