Game Review: Thy Sword (PS Vita)

Despite using their own in-house development tools to convert indie PC games across to the PS Vita that have been created with a range of game creation packages, it was still surprising to see how many diverse titles were released by Ratalaika Games. We were treated to puzzle, action, sci-fi, RPG and most genres and settings you could possibly imagine. And in the case of Thy Sword, it was the turn of the fantasy hack-and-slash platformer…

Thy Sword – a clichéd plot

To be honest, Thy Sword kicks things off with a fairly predictable storyline. A peaceful land is invaded by an evil overlord. In the process a magic crystal is destroyed, shattered into five pieces. You have to travel the land to retrieve these (although you’re not told why) and peace will be restored).

So off you set on your quest, across the world, fighting off hordes of creatures, day and night to save the land!

The Game

What follows is a straight up single-screen platformer. On each screen you have to defeat every creature, and upon doing so the exit opens up so you can move on to the next. Some creatures will drop items to help you on the way – potions, health, weapons and coins/jewels which you can spend in the shop at the end of each set of levels to buy additional health, equipment and so on.

You have a choice of characters at your disposal, each with their own strengths, weaknesses and weapons available to use so and while the PS Vita version is single player only, console ports offer a two player co-op option. Sadly this hasn’t been incorporated into the Vita version when used on the PlayStation TV, but very few games do. Additional characters can be unlocked as you progress as can extra weapons to help you along the way.

Gameplay

All of the levels are procedurally generated but on each playthough they remain the same so when you lose all your health and decide to continue the level layout will remain the same. There are three difficulty settings which will affect the number of lives (credits) that you have at your disposal to be able to retry the levels you’re currently playing.

The difficulty itself seems to be fairly well balanced so it’s a combination of skill and planning to be able to beat each one rather than rushing in headfirst, swords swinging aimlessly. This approach makes Thy Sword far more enjoyable adding a more cerebral element rather than relying on reflexes alone.

Shopping Time

Once you’ve completed each stage you’re taken to a small clearing in a forest where you can interact with a number of characters. Here you can visit a few different merchants to buy new weapons and equipment to help you along the way, restore your health, upgrade your abilities and more. For those of you feeling lucky, there’s even a character who will challenge you to a game of blackjack! You can choose an amount of your available coins to bet against him to see if you can boost your funds.

Going Retro

As always, it’s designed with a retro look and feel in mind, although the orchestral opening score on the title screen is somewhat misleading. It does give an epic feeling to Thy Sword, almost setting the scene akin to most sword and sorcery fantasy movies. But once you start the game proper, the soundtrack reverts to the expected retro chip soundtrack. I’m not complaining but it is something of an anti-climax.

Visuals are done in an 16 bit pixel art style, but unusually for a Ratalaika release, there is an option hidden away in the menus to change from the default graphics to two addtional pixel art modes including CRT emulation. Personally, I left the graphics as they were, but it’s nice to see retro styled games offering this.

Playability

Thy Sword is one of those games that seems quite simple and in a way quite limited from the outset. We’ve seen countless games like this over the years – whether they are single screen, or side-scrolling, it’s a genre that at one time was very over-saturated. But what this manages to do is to avoid all of those problems by keeping the gameplay simple, yet engaging, adding enough of a strategic element to lift it up beyond being a mindless action game and then adding the shop and upgrades adds an RPG character development aspect as well.

The final twist – the use of procedurally generated levels – gives the whole game endless replayability. Even if you manage to complete the game on the highest difficulty setting, there’s nothing stopping you from playing again from the beginning as you’ll essentially have a brand new gaming experience.

Overall

What I thought was going to be a bland, repetitive platformer from the screenshots, turned out to be a really fun and addictive platformer. Once I started playing, I found Thy Sword really hard to put down and it had that “one more go” factor, pulling me in to keep playing, egging me on just so I’d progress to one more stage… then the next and so on. As always with Ratalaika, it’s Cross Buy as well with the PS4 making it even better value for money, but if you love platformers, you won’t want to miss out on this one.

At A Glance

  • Title: Thy Sword
  • Publisher: Ratalaika Games
  • System: PS Vita
  • Format: Download
  • Cross Buy: Yes (PS4)
  • Cross Save: N/A
  • Cross Play: N/A
  • Online Multiplayer: No
  • Memory Card Space Needed: TBC
  • PlayStation TV Compatible: TBC

Vita Player Rating - 08

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About Simon Plumbe 1056 Articles
Husband, father and lifelong geek. Originally from the West Midlands, now spending my days in South Wales with my family and a house full of animals. Passionate about video games, especially retro gaming, the Commodore 64 and PlayStation Vita. Love pro wrestling, sci-fi and I'm an animal lover and vegetarian. Enjoyed this and my other articles? Why not buy me a coffee: http://ko-fi.com/simonplumbe

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