A Teenager And His Mech, No Greater Love Story Exists
Blackwind, when broken down in its simple even parts, is a game that's all about blowing things up as a mech. Trails of alien blood and mech oil fluid are left in the wake of your destruction while giving the game an inkling of a "plot," because there has to be an incentive to the madness right?
As far as I was able to gather, you play as a kid who is forced on an unknown planet following an attack in space. The kid's father forces him into the mech, disengages him, and leaves him to fend for himself. Upon waking up, the kid travels through the planet to find some way to get in contact with his father who may or may not be alive.
Thankfully, the plot is not the main focus of Blackwind, leaving the player right into the action relatively quickly. Shortly, enemies begin to swarm the player as they use their blaster cannons and melee attacks to fend off waves of enemies. The mech, Blackwind, controls as smooth as one would expect from a "top-down hack-and-slash."
The gameplay reminded me of older 2000s era Playstation 2 titles where the goal is to destroy everything that moves. Controls are as simple as having a light and heavy attack, ranged attack, and a special "missile" attack that requires Power.
Blackwind Is Nostalgic Fun Despite The 'Jank'
Upon defeating enemies, Blackwind will have the chance to execute enemies, which upon doing so will cause a cool animation to play out, netting the player bonus rewards. Upon defeating enemies and destroying the environment, the player will earn these blue cores that can be used to upgrade Blackwind. The upgrades are self-explanatory, ranging from bonus health and power cores dropping from enemies to increased damage from melee and ranged attacks.
While I felt as if I was already powerful enough in the beginning, after a few upgrades I felt almost unstoppable. The health pick-ups are generous, meaning mashing is encouraged over tactful gameplay. Once Blackwind learns the Earthquake attack, rooms of enemies are cleared out within seconds. At that point, the only danger to Blackwind is itself as accidentally attacking explosive barrels tends to happen on occasion.
Everything Is Great Until It Attempts To Be Something It's Not
It's only when Blackwind tries to be something different from a "top-down hack-and-slash" robot title does the sugar rush begins to wane off. Blackwind has to have possibly the worst platforming mechanics I've played in an action game in a very long time. Imagine a giant mecha attempting to make precise jumps that one would find in a Super Mario title. Now, imagine having to backtrack in the same area just to make gaps that were previously inaccessible a minute ago after activating some random switch within the "jungle gym" of the platforming area?
That's what platforming is like in Blackwind. There are some ledges that are marked, along with camera movement, to give hints that the player should jump, but the "jumping from ledge to ledge" thing is hilariously bad. Even watching the animations you can tell that this was something considered well after the "blow everything to smithereens" approach. But, man, what a momentum killer just to run into, well, this.
Blackwind Begins To Rip Itself From The Seams With No Way Of Patchwork
Every single jump was met with me holding my breath, praying I didn't get stuck in the environment until it happened. I got stuck on a ledge and there was no hope for me to escape as the camera blocked my path. Mashing the controller didn't help either, causing me to restart from the previous checkpoint which set me back 10 minutes. Unfortunately, this was the end of my 'fun' so to speak. Suddenly, I wished to return to the claustrophobic laboratory where predictable waves of enemies spawned including the standard "grab this key to open this door and do it all again" approach.
That's the main problem with Blackwind, it's not a terrible game but it most certainly is not a great one. It's a game to play in order to try and capture the fleeting moment of childhood 3D action games that had its fair share of jank. Blackwind was a tad bit too successful in capturing that nostalgia, offering players a little more of the negative over the positive. Currently, Blackwind is $25 MSRP digitally, $5 more for a physical copy. I would wait for the game to go on sale and enjoy the cheap afternoon thrill it provides. It scratched the "mecha destroying" itch that The Riftbreaker couldn't provide. It would have helped if the game stayed in the oven to cook more thoroughly, however.
Blackwind is available on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S