A pair of shades, torn jeans, biker boots and demons. The perfect recipe for a badass adventure, what more could you need?! Well, Blackthorne takes it one step further into badassdom. It hands you a shotgun and makes your ears bleed with bone shredding 16-bit METAL!!
Unlike many of the games we have covered so far, Blackthorne has been in my backlog for years. Honestly it is the perfect example of a game that inspired me to start up The Backlog Odyssey.
I spend the majority of my time every year playing newly released games on the latest consoles. Only occasionally do I go back to play some of the older games found in my collection. This time I really wanted to dig up a game that I’ve never beaten from the console generation of my childhood.
The Super Nintendo was the lifeblood back in the day and I would take every opportunity I could get to play new games. I wasn’t able to buy many games at the time, so I would hit up the local video store each and every weekend like it was going out of style. Many games in my SNES collection actually came from that same store.
Blackthorne was one of those games that, despite it’s apparent difficulty, I would rent again and again in hopes to see what lay beyond the first couple of levels. Alas, I was never able to make it very far but it’s style and atmosphere kept me coming back for more! But fear not my friends, after twenty-plus long years, Blackthorne has been plucked from my backlog. It has finally been eternally enshrined in my “I finally flippin’ beat that freakin’ game” pile!
Blackthorne’s creative direction is really where it excels; all brought to life by comic artist Jim Lee. Without skipping a beat the cover art for the game drives home it’s heavy metal themes. An intimidatingly large man graces the cover with rippling pecks and a head full of long wiry black hair (probably satiny soft but wiry is much more metal). And of course he’s carrying his trusty shotgun. Directly behind him a group of ironclad WarCraft-like orcs assuredly “ready to work” and definitely NOT up to “no good”, that’s my assumption anyway.
It’s unfortunate the cover of my copy of the game has seen better days. Maybe one day I’ll also acquire the original box and booklet. It’s sad because what always drew me to the game was it’s cover art.
It won’t take you long though after you slide that game cartridge into the SNES game slot, figure out where the heck to plug the yellow composite video cable into your HDTV and boot up the game to discover that Blackthorne’s art style translates to 16-bit pixels gloriously! The sheer detail found in all of the sprites and backgrounds truly blew me away. Honestly I didn’t think the SNES could render that many frames of animation!!
Blackthorne may have been created in 1994 but it could easily stand up to many of the “retro-inspired” indie games developed today. I’m sure it was Blizzard’s technical wizardry that made it all happen.
Throughout the game you will traverse four worlds, each with a distinct design and all equally detailed. My only real complaint is that the individual stages found within a world all look the same. After playing an area for 30 plus minutes a piece they become a little repetitive. A unique musical theme will also accompany each of the worlds and although they’re not necessarily bad they do become a little grating. They’ll definitely get lodged into your brain, mostly due to the 30 second loop they run on.
Enemies on the other hand have very little variety at all. Excluding the palette swaps used for their variants there are only 3 different enemy types. Save for the final boss and a few of the other characters you meet throughout the game of course.
Blackthorne, in it’s day, was boasted as a “Cinematic Platformer!”. But when actually playing it I’m not sure if I would define it as either cinematic or as a platformer. Really “Slow Paced, Hide and Shoot, Jump and Miss-a-thon!” is a more accurate headline.
The light puzzle solving found throughout the game isn’t exactly inspired either and the combat is at best tedious. More often than not the game is punishing, making you restart an entire stage when you die. Or when you accidentally use that forsaken bomb that you needed to complete the level. On any other game I’d say it was boring, unrewarding and not worth your time, but for some reason the sum of all of Blackthorne’s parts just kept hooking me.
I can’t say I loved the game nor can I say I hated it. It lies somewhere in between where I will always fondly look back on my time with it. But it’s flaws are very real and those flaws will probably prevent me from ever going back and playing it again.
What I would really like to see is Blizzard dig up some of their older franchises like Blackthorne. Maybe give them a more modern twist with more refined mechanics. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Diablo and StarCraft but that would be truly exciting!