Friday 5 January 2018

Blackthorne (32X review)

Developer: Paradox Development
Publisher: Interplay Productions
Released: 1995

Blackthorne is an action-platformer that was originally released on the SNES and MS-DOS in 1994.

You play as Captain Blackthorne, a former U.S. Marine officer, and your mission is to free the Androthi prisoners from the evil Warlord Sarlac. There's a total of five missions (one exclusive to this Sega 32X port) that consist of 4-5 stages each. The gameplay involves blowing up locked doors with Hover Bombs, finding keys to create bridges, and using Remote Wasps to detonate computer terminals. You have a Shotgun to fight enemies, but interestingly you can hold Up on the d-pad to hide in the shadows; this tactical / stealth element greatly enhances the action-oriented gameplay and forces you to time shots with a more deliberate pace. While shotgun ammo is unlimited, extra weapons are not, and I like how the game forces you to carefully manage your resources, and occasionally avoid combat, to pass each level. There's also some neat puzzle elements too, such as needing to find a key to disable a security field that will then allow you to blow-up the mainframe with a Remote Wasp. The level design is the game's strongest point, as it shares similarities with Super Metroid (1994, SNES) in its sprawling, yet well-signposted nature. The adventure is lengthy, but the addition of level passwords keeps you coming back. Unfortunately, jumping long distances is a constant anxiety, as you need to press C to run and then B to jump; while this sounds simple, there's a minor delay which often leads to instant death where you fall down a pit. The pre-rendered graphics, animation and colour definition are fantastic, but there's not a great deal here that takes advantage of the 32X's power.

Blackthorne is an atmospheric title that successfully morphs multiple genres into an engaging and lengthy adventure. It's a real thinking man's action-platformer, and while there are some unfortunate control issues, the outstanding level design and gameplay mechanics lessen much of the frustration.

Random trivia: A portable version was released on the Game Boy Advance in 2003.

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