Blackthorne is a platform based shoot-em-up published by Blizzard Entertainment for the Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis and PC. Blizzard actually has a long history of producing innovative and original games, even if all they do now is sell online multiplayer crack to anyone willing to cough up enough dough. It was originally released in 1994, but was re-released for the Game Boy Advance in 2002. It was then re-re-released by Blizzard on as a free download.

Blackthorne looks fantastic. The colors are vivid, the character animations are fan-fucking-tastic and the cut scenes between levels are that 1980s-saturday-morning-cartoon kind of awesome. No complaints in the looks department. This game is worth a try just see it in action. Seriously. There is also story going on in the background, which seemed quite interesting, though to be honest I skipped a lot of it just so I could get to the next level quicker.  There are also other humans throughout the stages who do not attack you (be warned though – some do) and instead give you piece of advice, items and sometimes weapon upgrades when spoken to.

The core mechanics of the game are a little unconventional, although still quite similar to the game Flashback. While not a complete rip-off, the two games cover a lot of the same ground. There is a certain realism to the game, in the sense that the player character must consciously perform all the actions needed to play. That last sentence made absolutely no sense, so I’ll explain a little further. In a lot of games, pressing the fire button will make the player pull out a gun and fire it, but in Blackthorne, the player must press a button to draw the weapon, another to fire it, then another to put the weapon away. This approach to controls is used with most other aspects of character movement as well, most notably jumping and crouching. I know that it sounds like the most tedious shit ever to grace your control pad, but in some strange way it actually adds to the overall gameplay experience.

As opposed to being a side scrolling game, the levels consist of a series of static screens which connect at the edges, or bt2through doorways. Think The Legend of Zelda, but instead it has a side-on view and not a top-down one. While the levels get progressively less linear as you make your way through the game, they never become frustrating. Even the very last level, which can be quite confusing to navigate, is entirely doable as long as you take notice of your surroundings.

All combat in the game boils down to a single concept; cover and shoot. When you have your weapon drawn, you are able to both fire and take cover against the wall (by pressing up on the D pad). The enemies can’t hit you when you are hiding and in turn you are unable to fire, but almost all of the enemies in the game can also hide. This means that a little strategy and split-second timing are needed to shoot the shit out of things in your way, but you do get used to it pretty quickly.

The levels themselves are huge and are split into several sections. As the played progresses to each section they are given a password (remember this was 1994) that will start them at the same section next time they play. There are four levels in all, although I heard that Genesis has a fifth, mountain range themed level as well.


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