What is Bard’s Gold?
Well, I’m glad you asked! Bard’s Gold is a 2D platformer developed by Erdem and Jenner Sen. They launched a successful Steam Greenlight campaign in February and a few months later here I am, taking a look at the finished game. Let’s dive right in!
Once the game starts, the title screen greets you with a short, but important animation. It provides the basis for the lore of the game. A thief stole Bard’s family treasure and we are trying to get it back by jumping after him…. into a well. Did we really think this through?
After the animation is over the menu options come up. They are all pretty self-explanatory. In Rankings you can track your progress and compare your score with others’. In Options, you can tweak some basic settings such as the controls, language, volume, etc.
Before starting the game you can chose between two options: normal and retro. These are difficulty settings, retro being the harder one. How hard, you may ask?
Let’s just say “normal” is challenging enough.
The layout of the game is pretty simple. There is a door and a key on each level. The door marks the exit, and you need to get the key in order to open the door. This is pretty simple at first, but getting the key will get harder and harder as you progress. One big part of the game is that there are no tutorials, so you have to figure out everything by yourself. As a result, you often find yourself dead by making a silly mistake, which leads to the second most important part of the game: everything kills you. There is no health-bar, you die instantly upon taking damage. Needless to say, this can make things challenging, but not impossible. This is why the game is sometimes referred to as a rogue-like platformer, although, the term is not entirely correct since you do have multiple lives, whereas in a true rouge-like game the first death marks the end of your adventures.
However, the game does not only consist of getting the key and leaving the level as soon as you have it. Each level is full of monsters that slow down your progress and each monster drops a gem, which can be used as currency. Because of this, you are encouraged to mercilessly remove every living creature from your surroundings for maximum loot. On certain levels, there are shops where you can spend the gems and buy items that help you clear the levels faster. There is no description on the items that you buy in the shop, so you sort of have to experiment in order to figure out which item does what, although most of them are pretty obvious. (Heart gives extra health, yellow watch gives extra time etc).
Besides collecting gems, there was an other aspect of the game that I really enjoyed. Every level contains hidden items and secrets that you can find. These can be gems, pieces of a map, a weapon upgrade, maybe even an extra level. You can find these secrets by hitting invisible blocks with your dagger, which will reveal them, although sometimes you will have to hit them more than once. Listen to the different sound effects that your daggers make when you throw them. You will hear the difference. If you hit something, your projectile will become shorter as well. Sharpen your ears and keep your eyes peeled so you don’t miss any secrets!
So far I wrote mostly about positive aspects of the game and you might wonder if I found any issues with it. The answer is: not really, although I did find two things that bothered me a little and I thought I would point them out. I encountered the first issue when I set the game to full-screen in the options menu. I noticed that there is some quality loss in the text. It is mostly visible on the title screen, as the type becomes pixelated. However, if you play the game in a small window format all the text is clear and sharp, so I’m thinking this was not meant to be.
This somewhat leads to my second issue, which was with the menu titles themselves. After staring at it long enough I concluded that it was probably hand lettered, which is understandable. The title of the game is set with a heavy, decorative Blackletter script and it is difficult to find a matching typeface to stand with it. I think it was a good idea to loosen up the type by tracing it and using it as an object rather than a font. On the other hand, some parts of it could be improved. Some of the letters are either too close or too far apart, for example the “t” in “quit” is so far away that it doesn’t feel like it’s part of the same word, while “ti” in “Options” are so close that they could easily become a ligature.
I don’t want to be too nit-picky about this, but I do think that the title screen is pretty important, since it is the first thing that the players see when they start the game, therefore it should get the appropriate attention.
Overall, I would say Bard’s Gold is a neat little game. I had a blast playing it. The music is awesome, I feel like I could listen to it every night before I go to sleep. The gameplay provides enough challenges to be rewarding but it isn’t so hard that you will rip out your hair while playing it. It takes some time to master it, but this means that you also get the satisfaction of getting better at it, and after a few hours you will really see the progress that you have made. It’s also worth noting that the game won’t lose it’s replay value even after completion because the levels are randomized to give different layouts each time you start the game. This makes it a little bit more difficult to memorize each map, keeping the players on their toes by adding more variety.
I hope you enjoyed this review and that I helped you find an awesome game to add to your library!
PS: If you are too lazy to read I also made a video 😛