Goblin Sword Review: Retro Platforming Goodness
Retro gaming is big in the App Store. So many 8-bit and 16-bit retro games are out there that it’s not really a special idea anymore. But when a game isn’t just retro but nostalgic, it’s a real treat. Goblin Sword is such a game, an unrepentant 16-bit retro platformer that delivers a great experience.
That said, as a concept Goblin Sword does fall on the generic side. You are essentially Man With Sword fighting through Evil Monsters to Save the Kingdom from the Big Bad. Or something like that. Who cares? It’s time to cut some goblins! And snakes! And … er. whatever that pig thing with a hobo sack is supposed to be.
Tens of short levels within an area has become the norm for platforming on iOS and Goblin Sword follows this trend. Each mini level may only take you a couple minutes to complete the first time, unless you’re seeking out every coin and hidden item. Levels are mostly jumping challenges, enemy fights, and static obstacles like spike pits. Levels within an area can maybe feel repetitive at times, but if you allow that a console version might just have fewer long levels it’s really not that bad.
There are also occasional boss fights, which will be very familiar to you. Seriously — the first boss fight is the Minotaur fight. I don’t even need to explain; you know what I’m talking about and how to beat it. Bosses attack in predictable patterns and mostly require only timing and attacking to beat.
As you fight your way through levels you seek out treasure chests and three blue gems hidden on each level. This is as close to a modern three-star system as the game gets. Success gives you more money to upgrade to better gear faster, so you can slay more enemies and complete more levels. Like I said, pretty straightforward.
What Goblin Sword lacks in originality it makes up for in execution. The devs have nailed a 16-bit game feel here, from the graphics to the gameplay to the soundtrack. If I weren’t familiar with my gaming history I might have checked to see if Goblin Sword actually was a 16-bit port. It’s colorful and charming as a game and it doesn’t do a lot to take you out of that retro feel. And there’s no IAPs, either, something which always ruins a retro game for me.
One point of a little frustration is in the controls. It’s a simple virtual d-pad setup like many mobile games have, but the default button position is side by side, leading to more than one jump-when-I-meant-to-attack moments. Luckily, the buttons can be moved in Options, but some players may not realize this. Make sure to set them to your liking, and far enough apart that you don’t jump-die.
Goblin Sword is a fun romp. It’s not the best retro-inspired 2D platformer I’ve played on iOS, but it’s definitely a good time. Load it up, turn off your brain, and pretend it’s 1993 all over again.
Our score: 4 out of 5