Retro and Classic games are still all the rage today, even as much as they were when I was growing up. So, the 16-bit aesthetics of Goblin Sword will easily please those looking for some nostalgic action. Originally an iOS game from 2014, by Lefteris and John Christodoulatos, it’s been ported by them to the Switch under the company name of ‘Gelato Games‘.
That being said, you would not, and could not, tell this was initially designed as a mobile game as it’s very polished, fluent, and responsive with great controls. It actually surprised me that this was Gelato’s flagship title on the Switch for how awestruck it left me.
Goblin Sword’s strength lies within its gameplay and simplistic easy-to-follow story – which is fairly generic and straightforward. An army of monsters led by an evil wizard has invaded your hometown. You are to slay as many monsters as you can, find diamonds and treasures, avoid dangerous traps and defeat menacing bosses, before facing the evil wizard himself. That just about sums up all the exposition you’ll need as you set off on your quest.
This is where Goblin Sword shines radiantly! The game is spread out across six locations with a combined total of 89 levels. Each level contains three diamonds and two treasures to find, progressively becoming more difficult to spot each item the further into the game you get. That’s the keyword I want to focus on here; progression. In terms of difficulty, Platformer, Action and RPG games are notorious for difficulty spikes, unforgiving enemies, mazes, etc; but not Goblin Sword.
This game starts you off in the Great Forest whose levels are rather linear with most of the loot easy to spot, even those positioned off the beaten path. The enemies are a good variety for beginners: bats flying in a wave formation, golems with thrown projectiles, lizardmen with a charged up attack, boomerang men, pigmen, flying magic ghosts, fish, stationary snakes, you name it… For the Great Forest alone, there is so much variety! Ohhhh boy does that variety not slow down either! You’ll come across: Goblins, Cannoneers, Trolls, Skeletons, Jousters with shields, parrots, bombing lizards, skeleton mages, flying spectral knights, floating sorcerers, dragons, foxes, haunted skulls, witches, minotaurs, birdmen, exploding knights, bears, slimes, archers, and many more!
All of these enemies progressively get more difficult, that’s why I love this word for this game; progression! Enemies will get faster, lay traps, do combos, have odd patterns, long reaches, have shields, plus more that makes the levels get harder at a decent pace. Not once was I stuck with overwhelming difficulty which wasn’t due to my own errors. I even felt the boss battles were challenging and fair, despite them being rather tricky to overcome due to some of them having multiple stages, partners, environmental hazards, and more! Just like games of yesteryear on original 16-bit hardware, it’s all about recognising their patterns and performing certain attacks which leave them open for you to lay into them whilst they catch their breath or recover.
It adds a level of strategy into the game as sheer luck won’t save you, it’s learning their patterns and adapting accordingly which will make you the victor.
Not only the enemies were designed with such care, but the traps were also! Dear lord, the traps may just be my favourite part of Goblin Sword. How many of you have played Megaman, or any other infamous NES/SNES game that had a variety of traps that really amped up the gameplay? That’s what Goblin Sword does but in a completely manageable way that you’ll enjoy and not ragefully slam your Switch across the room like we did with our controllers of yonder.
Again, referring to the Great Forest, the traps start off as an introduction to what is yet to come. You have generic pits, spikes, spinning blades, moving platforms, and the typical ailments for a beginning adventurer. However, just when you thought you’ve mastered them, the traps evolve into more dangerous formats and newer traps are implemented. The standard obstacles will soon evolve into leaping over spinning blades above deadly pits, dodging spikes and blades on moving platforms, spikes on the floors and ceilings will make you carefully manoeuvre jumps, reacting fast to disappearing and flipping platforms, and even staying cool whilst jumping over pits with lava.
Then there’s the new traps, traps which are gradually introduced as rolling spike balls, moving spike platforms, conveyor belts, elevating floors, saw blades, fireballs, ice, dangerous statues, crumbling floors and platforms, breakable blocks, chase sequences, and so much more. Not to mention the game introducing various puzzle elements such as finding keys, pushing blocks, poking buttons, flipping switches, and more.
Successfully excavating the treasures and loot from each stage will reward you with new weapons, armour, and relics. Some you’ll buy and others are rewarded from the chests you’ll open throughout each level. Weapons in the game come in the form of three stats advantages; attack, speed, and range, each consisting of 1 – 3 points each. With 30 in-game weapons, it can be argued that there isn’t much upgrade in the form of stats – which is true – except that every weapon also comes with its own magic! Magic is filled through blue orbs you find in levels, allowing you to have ranged attacks, auras, and power-ups, amongst many more benefits. So yes, sometimes a more expensive weapon may have lower ‘stats’ but the magic makes up for it, it’s all about trying out each one and seeing which you prefer most.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about the armour as the 14 pieces of armour in Goblin Sword are purely aesthetic, though it is not to say that the designs aren’t beautiful. Each piece of armour and weapon has its own animations and I personally found that the armour which makes trails of your shadow to be the most fun to use – from an aesthetic point of view.
The most aide in this game will come from your relics, which, like weapons, there are 30 to collect. Unlike weapons, these drastically change your playstyle by providing better heart drops, increased orb drops, gem drops, faster movement, huge attacks and reduced enemy defence, summons, lava protection, etc… This essentially lets you almost emulate a ‘class’ – I went the magic route, allowing me to find orbs constantly and veil myself in auras that let me run through enemies – giving me that sense of invulnerability I thoroughly enjoyed.
Trophies and replayability
The last tidbit for Goblin sword isn’t necessarily the gameplay, but it’s still fun nonetheless. When you’re inside your home you’re able to access both Souvenirs and Quests. Souvenirs let you decorate your house, giving you that sense of visual accomplishment for what you’ve achieved in this world. I’m quite fond of my stone Minotaur statue hanging on the wall. With a combined total of 46 quests, it gives Goblin Sword replayability as the Switch doesn’t come with achievements – so these could technically be seen as the equivalent in order to prolong gameplay. These quests will range from pacifism, speed runs, collectables, finding secrets, and many more.
Questing aside, Goblin Sword has another major reason for you to replay the game upon completion – inaccessible paths. You’ll notice tiny little passages strewn throughout the game which you can’t fit through, leaving you unnerved until the end of the game as to how to access them. As you progress through the game you’ll meet various NPC’s who give hints and offer generic advice, yet one of these NPC’s tells you of a method to shrink so that you can enter these mysteriously tiny passages. So, by end-game, your desire to search out those passages will alight a new fire under you!
Given the vast amount of content packed into these 89 levels, does it execute well? Yes, it does, but the game has a ‘perfectionist’ attitude which requires you to master the tight controls if you wish to fully 100% everything the game has to offer. These are a few nitpicked things which slightly annoyed me:
• Secret passages are sometimes just the size of your character, resulting in you jumping at a wall 20+ times to simply try and make a pixel-perfect squeeze.
• You’ll find yourself hitting ceilings quite often so you’ll need to practice mid-air jumps to avoid obstacles. Again, this can be quite pixel-perfect based on the trap you’re trying to avoid.
• Quests tell you the basic requirements to satisfy them, but not how to achieve the goal – For example “extinguishing candles” – do I blow on them?
In terms of my experience and the overall performance though, Goblin Sword played astonishingly well. The invincibility frames allow good recovery, the 16-bit visuals are done crisply on the Switch, I wanted to frequently rotate between equipment for the various visuals and effects, even with 10+ enemies on the screen at once there are no frame drops, and you always felt fully in control – even when swamped with enemies and traps. I won’t hold the nitpicked points above against the game as it was incredibly hard to actually find anything ‘wrong’.
Basically, Goblin Sword executes splendidly on the Switch.
Goblin Sword on the Switch is a must for everyone who loves old-school platforming adventure games! The sense of accomplishment you get from studying bosses and then using that knowledge in order to defeat them is very satisfying and nostalgiac for an older gamer like me. Not to mention the feeling of rapture you get from rushing back to the store, to look at and test out the new weapons and armour you’ve excavated from each level, is something I rarely have in games like this – especially when some of the unlocks are purely cosmetic only. Finally, the profuse amount of content, ranging from the number of enemies to the abundance of deadly traps, will leave you overwhelmed with originality, excitement, and determination to progress and see what else is in store for you.
Goblin Sword is not just a game for Retro fans, but it’s for everyone – I encourage anyone with a Switch to definitely try out this addictive platformer!
- - Lots of content for such a low price
- - Manageable difficulty
- - The controls are very tight and responsive
- - Beautiful 16-bit Aesthetics
- - Lots of replayability with secret rooms, quests and the urge to collect every items in the game
- - The quest descriptions are quite vague
- - Some of the secret passages are hard to access as they require pixel-perfect jumps
- - No stat allocation system outside of changing your weapons (I would have personally loved a levelling up system)