Swords & Bones reminds me of Swords And Sandals: Spartacus because their titles and gameplay are similar. Both games are 2D pixel-based side-scrollers with endearing platforming, combat mechanics, and a hulking hero. Swords & Bones just has a more ghost and demons fantasy theme with slower paced and more deliberate gameplay.
One element I like the most with Swords & Bones is its level structure. Each stage is composed of multiple bite-sized levels with a boss battle bookending. This makes gameplay fun and approachable since most levels can be beaten in approximately one minute. If you die, that previous restart is never that far behind.
Playing as knight trying to save the world from an invading demon, the narrative provides an excuse to slash everything with your wide sword swing. A 2D side-scroller at its heart, there is one button to jump, one button to attack, and another to summon magic once unlocked. It is easy to play as each stage is a linear walk to the right experience until you reach the end. Each stage, however, contains a secret chalice to collect but it isn’t always immediately available. Sometimes players will need to return when you have an extra key or unlocked that double jump, for example, so there is an excuse to replay these quick stages on occasion.
Unfortunately, there are a few odd design choices that hold back the experience although never game breaking. First is the button mapping. When using a Pro Controller, A jumps (not B), X attacks (not Y), and B is magic (not X). There is no option to adjust the controls in the menu so it will take a little time to adjust. Enemies and background elements also repeat throughout each world. This is a budget game after all, so this is understandable, but it does get a little monotonous killing the same demons. The first boss, as another example, is just a palette swap of the playable hero right down to the same brooding running animation. The 16-bit sprite work is done well though.
The overworld map music is also quite nice and wouldn’t mind hearing it randomly throughout the day in real life. Annoyingly, the slightest tap downward on the analog stick causes the player to fall through platforms often to a one-hit kill pit or spikes. It is much too sensitive, something that could have been fixed by holding down and the pressing jump like other action games like Contra. Since the d-pad is inactive, using the analog stick will cause some mistaken deaths. There is also no pause button or way to manually quit a stage when entered. This is also an annoying oversight since the game wants you to backtrack to collect missed items. At the time of this review, there are some unfinished enemy behaviors found in the later levels especially but a patch has been promised.
Defeated enemies often drop money which can be spent on upgrades which gives the experience a bit of an RPG feel. It takes a lot to unlock the good stuff though so players might be nearing the end of the quest by the time that double jump or new magic attack becomes available.
Swords & Bones is a quality retro throwback to classic Castlevania and Mega Man even with its shortcomings. At the time of this article, this game is on sale for two bucks. For two bucks, it is a very enjoyable experience and well worth the asking price.
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By: Zachary Gasiorowski, Editor in Chief myGamer.com
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