Platforms PS4, XBO (reviewed)
Developer Good Catch Games
Publisher Good Catch Games
Release Date May 16, 2017

Review code provided

Black & White Bushido is an arena brawler that pits the forces of light and shadows against each other. The world’s of light and shadow existed in parallel, completely unaware of each other’s existence, until an eclipse shattered the fabric of both realities. Now the forces of light and shadow fight each other, both attempting to survive and achieve victory.

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Players take on the role of either light or shadow Samurai and fight each other in one-hit kills combat, basically. The story description is more or less pulled straight from the Steam store page and doesn’t factor into the game at all. Black & White Bushido is a 2D arena brawler, with its focus on pitting players against one another in fast-paced combat that is built around timing and reflexes.

Light and shadow is where the game’s striking monochromatic art style comes into play. Everything in Black & White Bushido is black and white (save for blood). Choosing light or shadow will determine what pockets of the arena’s you’re able to blend in with and where you’ll stand out. The game twists its standard 2D fighting gameplay by employing stealth-like mechanics.

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If you’re a shadow character, then standing in black areas renders you almost invisible and vice versa. When moving you’ll cast a faint outline and other players will still be able to see the effects of your attacks or hitting the ground. Holding the right trigger will cause you to become completely invisible, allowing you to sneak around levels and ambush your enemies. The levels themselves dynamically change, creating new pockets of light and shadow.

It’s a great idea in theory, but in execution it can be more confusing than useful. It’s far too easy to lose track of your character in the maelstrom of combat. Oftentimes I wouldn’t be able to tell where I was, eventually realising that I had died and was now in a completely different part of the map after respawning. Other times I would end up tracking the wrong player altogether when I had allies.

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The issue is there’s no real indication of where your character is, rendering any stealth attempts a dangerous double-edged sword. It’s hard to get the drop on your enemies when you can’t even be sure where you’re standing. While I get that showing where your character is standing in single-screen multiplayer would defeat the purpose, the fact that the game doesn’t give you any sort of indication in online modes or in single-player seems strange.

Combat itself is well crafted. It’s very immediate thanks to its quick pace and one-hit kill nature. The controls are simple enough and levels are easily traversed thanks to a your ability to double jump & wall jump. There are even a smattering of items to help keep things interesting, with equipment such as shruikens, caltrops and smoke bombs to give you an edge.

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Black & White Bushido is mostly built around its swordplay. There are four different characters players can choose from, though despite being armed with different weapons they feel more or less identical to one another. Clashing with other players sees the game at its best – as you blast around the levels trying to get the upper hand on an enemy and run them through with a dash attack. It’s fun stuff.

While the game does feature a single-player, it’s multiplayer where the game shines. The bots you fight in a single-player match are nowhere near skilled enough to cause you any sort of problem whatsoever. Within a few short matches you’ll barely need to break a sweat fighting the AI. Except in the single-player exclusive challenge mode, where the game spawns new enemies faster than you can kill them (rendering the capture the flag portion of the mode completely untenable).

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Black & White Bushido features both online and offline multiplayer. Taking the fight to unpredictable Human controlled players is where the game is at its most fun. Playing with friends in the same room is the best, though playing online can be just as enjoyable. When you can find a match. Since the game launched I have yet to play a full 4-player match, either through matchmaking or by creating my own lobby.

The waiting times can be stupendously long. Attempting to find a match has sometimes seen the game quote me wait times of up to 700+ minutes. While I’m sure I would have found a game quicker than 11 hours, I’ve been forced to give up looking plenty of times after patiently waiting for far too long to play the game. Even when I finally could find a match, the lobbies were never full and I found myself playing against the same handful of players.

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This is all compounded by a lack of anything to really do in the game. The core gameplay is entertaining enough for a spell, but there are only two game modes to play. There’s the standard deathmatch and there’s capture the flag. It doesn’t take long at all for you to see everything that Black & White Bushido has to offer, and there’s not much meat on those bones and a feeling of repetition can quickly set in, especially with what seems like a cripplingly low player population.

Summary


Black & White Bushido is a game that’s hard to recommend. While its core fighting mechanics are sound, save for the confusion that can arise from its stealth systems and monochromatic presentation, it doesn’t really have a lot to keep you hooked. There’s no denying that a group of friends playing locally can have a good time, but it lacks any sort of staying power in single-player or online.

A lack of game modes, character diversity and the difficulty with finding an online match (at least on Xbox) cripple the game very quickly. Single-player is no substitute for playing against other players, especially with AI that offers no challenge whatsoever. It’s disappointing, because Black & White Bushido’s core elements are well designed and it has some interesting ideas, but it’s a game without any real staying power.

6v2

 


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