There are few games that will haunt me for as long as I live and hunting for gold as a bard is definitely one of them. Starting off armed with nothing more than your trusty knife that you throw at the enemies in front of you, dive into different dungeons all while searching for money, the way out, and trying not to spend all of your spoils on new gear to make the journey easier.
Bard’s Gold is essentially two games in one. On one hand we have “Normal” and “Retro” (Hard) which while being different game modes are the same at the core. Here we have our Bard diving into the dungeons and requiring to obtain a key all while picking up the most amount of money possible. Nodding to the old school house of difficult, any hit will make the Bard explode into a shower of pixels causing you to restart from the entrance way.
Along the journey are shops run by a reaper in order to sell you items to help you make things easier. Magical glasses to see hidden loot, boots to increase your speed, new weapons, power-ups and more life points. The cost of these is higher in Retro than it is in Normal so watch out to not spend all of your money inside of the dungeon. Also take note that these disappear the minute you bite the dust so making it through to the boss of the dungeon in one way will yields one hell of a payout if you don’t want to keep spending money on equipment.
Once the bard’s life points are all gone then it’s game over. The screen then wonderfully shows you how many enemies that you’ve taken out, how many floors that you’ve cleared and how much time you’ve spent doing it all. Once this wonderful screen of stats shows you how good or how poorly you performed you are brought to an upgrade screen which allows you to spent all of that hard earned money, or whatever is left, on upgrades that you have access to. These aren’t cheap and starting off you’ll only have extra life points before receiving a longer range after defeating the first boss. Having more life points and range helps but only as far as your attention to the dungeon’s details.
Bard’s Gold is both brilliant and absolutely frustrating if not infuriating in its designs. You have blobs, bats, mechanized death machines, ghosts, worms, and other crazy things just waiting to take you out all the while dodging falling spikes, rising spikes, crossbow bolts, and raining fire if you’ve taken too long. It honestly isn’t “hard” to navigate this giant deathtrap but one element always works into another one meaning that jumping out of the way of one thing could entirely lead you to die on another one. Avoid the crossbow bolt and jump into a bat that just happened to bounce down towards you when you looked away for a split second because that was not a stationary up and down bat. You jumped too high to avoid a worm racing by and instead hit the ceiling spikes. Each of these leads to a toll on your life points and a good run can end in nothing more than thirty seconds thereafter.
Seeing the finer details is also all well and good to say but actually paying attention to it when dealing with everything else? Well the game is designed to kill you after all and it’s good at it. Small, VERY SMALL raised platforms trigger crossbow bolts that come sailing across the screen and sometimes? There’s no way out of it but as a shower of pixels. Other times it boils down to a combination of things gone wrong with multiple enemies chasing after you to wind up hitting something else in the level or not noticing the split second that it takes to see the spikes dislodge from the ceiling and impale you into the floor causing another shower of pixels. Like I said… it doesn’t look hard but often times things just line up to make it seem that way.
That was on the first hand. On the other hand is the third option titled “Hardcore” which takes all of the features of “Normal” and “Retro” and in some ways makes it even easier because the Bard can take several hits before kicking the proverbial bucket instead of instantly dying. The different between the two is that while he’s still hunting for money once he dies that’s it. There’s no possible way to spend anything because well, he’s dead. This mode is a true test of your mettle as once you start you had better be dedicated to that run because it’s all or nothing.
Bard’s Gold is designed to kill you and it’s good at what it does. It can be frustrating, it can be infuriating, but it can also be fun and it’s a challenge that is as much against the environment as it is against yourself as you have to remember where everything is at all times.
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Article by Pierre-Yves