I’ve been meaning to write about A Sword Game since laaaaaaast yeaaaaaar. Or rather, the tail-end of last year, which was like a couple weeks ago. But then the holidays happened, my hands temporarily fell off (as they do every year), and well, here we are. Anyway, ASG is a brilliant little Ludum Dare entry from Starseed Pilgrim dev Droqen. It’s about swords, as many games are, but there’s a twist: you’re laughably incompetent. Good luck keeping ahold of your sword, much less skewering the armies of darkness like so many evil sausages. Baddies, walls, grates – everything can and will send your precious implement clanging away end-over-end. ASG is occasionally frustrating, but mostly it’s just hilarious.
The game itself is rather simple, but it’s the tiny details that make the humble-looking action-platformer stand out. Cracking sound effects, especially, lend your sword an impressively physical presence, making its tendency to ricochet into the distance every time you mindlessly bounce off a wall all the more giggle-inducing.
But A Sword Game isn’t just an exercise in physical comedy. It’s actually an impressively clever puzzle game when you get right down to it. Your sword is both a weapon and a key, so keeping it on your person is of the utmost importance. If some big bellied embodiment of evil girth-slaps it down a grate, you have no choice but to follow it down. You’re a swordsman in the most brutally depressing sense of the word. You are nothing without your blade.
But sometimes you do have to part with it – if only momentarily. The game’s levels are puzzles of navigation in and of themselves, with your itsy bitsy butterfingers faltering if your sword lingers against a wall for too long. Thus, you might need to hurl your sword up a flight of too-narrow stairs or hold it aloft while leaping between blocks. There are multiple paths through ASG’s castle, but never forget: your sword isn’t optional.
Droqen still doesn’t consider A Sword Game complete, but it’s a silly, smarter-than-it-looks good time even in its current state. Give it a try here.