Review by KFHEWUI

"A blatant Gauntlet Legends clone that is playable, but is an unenjoyable mess"

In 1998 Gauntlet Legends hit the arcades, and when I first saw the game in action, I was amazed. The large cabinet allowed for up to four players, and also had a number pad that allowed players to create a character and could later on come back and pick up where they had left off. The game become popular and like most popular games there are clones that are released however it would not be until five years later on the original X-Box when a blatant clone would be released. That game is BlackStone: Magic & Steel.

The game takes place in Zedan, and the land of Zedan has four towers that represent a different element which are Ice, Fire, Thunder, and Broken(?). Madul the ruler of the underworld tried to take over the land of Zedan, and he gained followers by turning the white wizards into black wizards. Madul started the Eclipse War which ended with the defeat of Madul and devastated the underworld wizards. Sometime later the remaining underworld wizards triggered the eruption of the volcano that is located in the heart of Zedan which allowed them enough time to take over the four towers which weakened the white wizards. The remaining white wizards summon several warriors to help them defeat Madul and his wizards.

BlackStone's story suffers from poor translation and plot holes, and the instruction booklet has a five page back story however the game has very little story development. There are cut scenes, but they contain very little information and are usually very brief with about two to three sentences. I applaud them for trying to actually create a story, but the story is unfortunately wasted.

When it comes to the music, BlackStone is a mix bag, and the tracks are either hit or miss. Most of the tracks are not that bad, but then there are tracks like the first level which sound like a combination of techno, Arabian, and vocal, and it sounds awful. The sound effects are decent, and the weapons have a distinct sound. Where the sound effects fail is the enemies, and each enemy makes their distinct sound effect which is not bad however there is a particular enemy that every time they are attack, they make a high pitched squeal. This happens every time they are attacked, and since it takes about four to six hits to kill each one it becomes very repetitive and annoying.

Controls is an area where BlackStone falls flat while the basic layout is not that bad and are usually responsive except when the character gets knocked down and stand back up the controls lag for a split second. The more advance controls are where the game falls flat. The advance controls are mostly used for more powerful attacks, and most of them do not work or they make no sense like bump attack 2 which the manual says is performed by Left Thumbstick:backwards?forward + A. After several attempts, I have not found a way to perform this attack so either this attack does not exist or it is a typo in the instruction manual which would not be the only error in the instruction booklet.

Graphic wise the game is average, and the ground textures look great however the enemies and main characters look terrible since they are so small the camera is pulled back far enough that the small details are not noticeable. Sadly some of the enemies can blend into the background and ground textures. The cover art gives an anime look, but the game has a realistic graphics.

The game loads up and first shows off a warning screen then a cut scene plays that is terrible, and features some of the goofiest goblins that I have ever seen. The cut scene just shows each character killing a single goblin, and the whole cut scene is pointless and features some terrible and horrendous music.

After the cut scene, the main menu comes up with two options: start game and options, and selecting start game leads to another cut scene. This cut scene however is only a still shot that looks great however every cut scenes is like this from now on. The problem with the cut scenes is that they feature slow moving text that takes about ten to twenty seconds to show up and are usually only have two to three lines of dialogue however the artwork for the cut scenes is very nice.

Next comes up the new game or load game screen, and when new game is selected, one of five characters can be selected. The five classes are: warrior, archer, pirate, thief, and warlock, and each character have their own strength and weakness like the thief is quick but weak while the warrior is slow but strong. Also each character has four different outfits, but only two are available at the start of the game. The remaining outfits have to be unlocked by beating certain levels with an S rank.

Once the game starts several problems become apparent. The first notable issue is the speed of the character which is too low, and the character's running speed is about as fast as walking speed while the walk speed is about as fast as a crawl. The strange part about the running system is that left thumbstick must be held down for about 1.5 seconds before the characters will start running, but this also affects the attack of the character which causes them to do a wide attack that leaves the character open to damage especially if the enemies dodge it. Instead of using the hold left thumbstick, the game should have used where the harder the thumb stick is pushed decides if the character runs or walk. Slight pushing forward on the left thumbstick could be walking while pushing all the way forward would result in running.

The combat in this game is terrible. Most of the enemies appear from a generator, and until the generator is destroyed they endlessly regenerate however there are some enemies that are randomly placed throughout the level which show up out of where. According to the game, more powerful enemies can teleport in at any time which is cheap and leads to a lot of cheap damage. The enemies that do not appear from generators are kamikazes, projectile enemies like archers, and large enemies, and the kamikazes are the most annoying enemies. They blend into the scenery, but they do make a loud ticking noise when they are close however the noise is glitchy. If there are multiple kamikazes around and only one dies, the music stops playing, and the music sometimes start and stop playing for no reason. The larger and more powerful enemies unfortunately also have a flaw which is questionable hit detection, and attacks will sometimes magically miss even though the characters weapons will clearly hit them.

Each character has several attacks which range from magic, shooting, sword, and items, and the game has a lot of worthless items like the hammer which only stuns an enemy if it hits them, and there are some overkill items like black hole and tornado. There are also some random items like dinosaurs which can be ridden, but they only stay around for a short time. There are also status affecting items like poison which slowly drains health for a short amount of time then there is the useless and agitating items like pig curse which turns the players head into a pig and disables their ability to attack.

BlackStone features a level up system which is also strange. Instead of gaining experience and leveling up over time, the game has three stats that can be leveled up by picking up a specific item. Strength is leveled up by picking up a gauntlet, Defense is leveled up with a shield, and intelligence is leveled up by picking up a staff. Also health can be upgraded however they can only be purchased from the item store in the hub despite what the instruction manual which says health is upgraded by beating a boss level with an S rank and this is not true at all. Also the game contains a weapon power up that unfortunately breaks the game. Without the weapon power up, the character is extremely weak, and with it they are extremely powerful however dying results in the loss of the weapon power up. This weapon is vital to beating the game because the different from having it and not having it is astounding. To be more specific without it, it can take four hits to a normal enemy, but with it, it takes about one to two hits.

Speaking of ranking system, the ranking system is strange and not explained at all. Getting an S rank, rewards the player with an extra credit and each player can carry up to 9 credits. The ranking system feels awkward, and it seemed like I would get a C rank even though I had a good run on a level. Other times it felt like I would get an S rank even though I did poorly on the levels.

The camera also is flawed, and the problem with it is that the camera only shows a few feet away from the character, and the enemies blindside the characters a lot even worse is the kamikazes which if they are even remotely close to the player, the damage is unavoidable since the enemies are faster than the player. This happens a lot, and it gets old quickly. Also since the camera shows very little of the surrounding of the scenery it can lead to a lot of accidental backtracking, but hitting the white button brings up a map. The map is an eye sore since it is bright yellow, it clashes with the dark lighting of the game, and it also covers up part of the scenery so if a generator appears under the map, the map will cover the generator.

The game has three types of levels which are field, tower, and boss. The field levels are the largest and are maze like. The tower levels are shorter and start with the player at a bottom of the tower, and they must reach the top of the tower. Boss levels are short and sweet however the bosses are not so great, and this game has some annoying bosses. Some of the bosses remain out of reach of character so shooting attacks are required, but the shooting attack is flawed and sort of has a lock on system. I say sort of because it seems like no matter where I was pointing and hitting shoot, the attacks would go in the opposite direction. The bosses also have a lot of attacks that feel unavoidable but really they are not instead they are really difficult to avoid especially since the characters movement is so sluggish.

Each level is packed full of traps, but the traps are usually fire shooting up from the ground, ice shard shooting out of walls, spikes, and poison gas shooting out of the ground. Most of the traps are easy to dodge, but there are some that are very difficult to dodge thanks to the strange timing of them.

BlackStone allows up to four players to play at once, but the only benefit is additional help with killing enemies and hidden treasure rooms that can only be reached with two or more players however they usually house only treasure and are not vital to beating the game.

Replay value hurts the game since the only replay value is playing through the game with friends and playing as different characters, but since the game is so bad that just finishing the game feels like a chore. After beating the game, I can say that I definitely will never replay the game, and I only finished the game since I like to beat a game before I review it.

BlackStone: Magic & Steel is a broken and unenjoyable mess that is playable however serious technical issues ruin the game including clumsy controls, cheap enemies, broken combat, and random slowdowns.

Reviewer's Rating:   0.5 - Unplayable

Originally Posted: 06/05/12

Game Release: Black Stone: Magic & Steel (US, 03/19/03)

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