Title: Bard’s Gold
Developer: Pixel Lantern
Publisher: Pixel Lantern
Genre: RPG, Action, Platformer, Arcade
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Audience: PEGI 3
Release Date: 05/03/19
Price: £7.99 – Rapid Reviews UK was very kindly provided with a review code for this title.
What the Developers say
Bard’s Gold is a challenging platformer that lets you explore eerie worlds in a quest for a Goblin that stole your gold.https://www.nintendo.co.uk/Games/Nintendo-Switch-download-software/Bard-s-Gold-Nintendo-Switch-Edition-1522146.html#Overview
Old school platforming experience – No tutorials or explanations how things should be done. Everything including the basic game mechanics must be figured out by yourself as you go.
Rogue-lite – Different layouts for each level is randomly chosen every playthrough. While getting the chance to memorize levels and get better at them, the ‘random level’ system will keep your interest. With the gems you collect you will be able to upgrade your character on the Game Over screen.
100+ Randomly picked levels to play
Extremely challenging, yet rewarding gameplay
Beautifully designed retro-inspired graphics
Gain powerful new abilities by finding skill books
Ever since the Switch was released back in 2017, all manner of genres has come to find the perfect home on the hybrid-console ranging from modern-day AAA games to old-school arcade titles. Bard’s Gold is one of these modern arcade titles that finds itself to be rewarding, and yet frustrating at the same time.
I have a love/hate relationship with Bard’s Gold. It starts extremely simple: title screen, start game, choose the difficulty, and you’re ready to start the game. Nothing is explained to you; you begin to play. The only issue I had was learning the controls since they felt foreign. This was because the Y was confirm, and the A button was back. Over the 10 hours I played of Bard’s Gold, I was pleasantly engrossed in the repetitive nature of the “roguelike” style of gameplay, and the secrets each level held. Unlike most roguelikes, Bard’s Gold has a semi-varied selection of levels that are randomly selected each time you hit game over. This does well enough for the first few hours, but there doesn’t seem to be enough variety to keep that same level of hook, 10+ hours into the game.
Each level is filled with treasure to buy, temporary gear and permanent power-ups as well as enemies and traps that try to keep you from reaching the next level. These obstacles are designed to keep you focused and to punish sometimes the smallest error in judgement when it comes to platforming or taking on an enemy losing your items when you die. Over time, I felt as though I was progressing while I got a better understanding of each level variant, and I rarely ever felt as though my deaths were unfair. Due to the punishing nature of the game, I would find myself getting overly frustrated when my progress came to a halt. Eventually, I’d find myself setting the Switch down to collect myself, and after a few minutes, I feel as though I was able to make it to the next level properly.
With a game as punishing as Bard’s Gold, each level is also filled with secret times and doors that take a while to pick up their signs. These mysterious items and doors would reward you with more gold, special mini-boss rooms, Halloween styled areas and difficult platforming areas. Unfortunately, unlike most of the game, there is little to no variation to these rooms, with each of the four major worlds having one platforming room, and once you find them a handful of times, you might even find yourself skipping them altogether as the thrill of completing them has worn away.
At the end of each world, you will face off against final bosses that unfortunately act little as much as moving targets, with few attack patterns to make them worthwhile. Once you have better weapons and power-ups under your belt, they become shockingly easy and can quickly be taken on in one go. The most challenging part about boss fights are not the bosses themselves, but the levels beforehand as going in unprepared can cause the battle to last even longer, only drawing out their dull qualities.
Audio & Visual
There’s not much to say in these two departments about this game. The visuals are classic,16-bit arcade art style with minor variations in enemies other than slight colour and design changes world to world. The music fits each world well, but with a little variety, I found myself muting the game and putting on one of my favourite podcasts to fill the silence.
This is a point that I’ve been struggling against myself with the entire ten plus hour journey through Bard’s Gold. While the game does eventually get repetitive and the rewards can be lacklustre, I always found myself picking the game back up. Even now, after completing all four worlds, I still have the urge to hop back down the well and see how better I’ve gotten, or try out the other modes. With the many power-ups still locked, and yet to be found, the increased difficulty and randomness both the Classic and Rogue-Like settings to bring, there’s plenty more to do in this game, and I feel the need to unlock more to see how it helps me in the future.
Bard’s Gold falls in a weird place in my heart. On the one hand, its a challenging, exciting, and rewarding arcade game, and on the other, it’s bland, repetitive and unsatisfying. Bard’s Gold is a small Indie title to go to when you’re down for a little challenge and to get that nostalgic arcade feeling again.
Rapid Reviews UK Rating
You can buy Bard’s Gold on the Nintendo EShop using the following link: https://www.nintendo.co.uk/Games/Nintendo-Switch-download-software/Bard-s-Gold-Nintendo-Switch-Edition-1522146.html#Overview
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.