Blackstone: Magic and Steel
A very long time ago in a galaxy not so far away Midway released a fantastic arcade game that was known as Gauntlet. Amazing for its time, it enabled four friends to fight side by side through wave after wave of bizarre creatures. Then Midway tried to update this template onto nextgeneration systems. Anyone who has seen Dark Legacy will know that this did not work. Both games and gamers had evolved way beyond anything the old classic could offer.
Why is this relevant you ask? Well, BlackStone: Magic And Steel is basically Gauntlet reborn. A four-player jaunt into repetitive action led by the ghost of videogame past. Why any developer would think to do this is a mystery. It’s not as if any subtlety has been applied to cover up the payment of homage to Gauntlet – even the character classes include Warrior, Archer and Warlock!
But then as you begin to play you realise exactly why it is Xpec has decided to make this game. Nobody could deny that Dark Legacy was bad (see our score of two in issue 7) and what has happened here is that another developer has created the game that Gauntlet should have been. That’s not to say this is a good thing but at least BlackStone is good to play in short bursts. At least an effort has been made to include fun features like a decent magic system and ride on creatures. In fact, at times this can feel like a bizarre lovechild of Gauntlet and Golden Axe.
Unsurprisingly, this title has managed to retain the inherent problem of both these arcade classics. Without exception the camera is incredibly annoying. In one-player you do not have the option to rotate it, which as you might imagine becomes annoying. However this pales in comparison to the problems faced in two-player or above – even the most mild-mannered nun would turn redfaced arguing with her mates whilst playing this.
Not being able to run off beyond the confines of the screen because another player is trying to step the other way in order to grab some rapidly fading gold is guaranteed to cause arguments. Then you’ve got the whole ‘who needs the health?’ question. Stalemate situations are far too common and frustrations levels run high on a regular basis. The question you have to ask yourself though, is whether or not all this is worth it for what boils down to a wholly average game?
BlackStone doesn’t look anywhere near amazing, the gameplay quickly becomes repetitive and the music? Well let’s just say that we wouldn’t be surprised if it came from an album in the bargain bin at an open air market or perhaps even a New Age incense outlet. Yes there is some fun to be had here, but you’ll probably get bored long before you unlock all the characters or see the final 26th level. There are better games to buy this month.