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Shovel Knight was a one of a kind game. In a sea of 2D platformers yearning for the past, that game felt like a step forward. It captured what was amazing about NES games without being NES hard, serving as a perfect introduction for younger gamers that never had the chance to pick up a two button controller. There have been many pretenders in the wake of Shovel Knight, but few have really succeeded in capturing an era of gaming in such a complete way. After playing their Kickstarter demo and following their work, I think I can safely say that Beard Blade is one of the few, a game that can be a window into 16-bit platformers for a new generation.

Beard Blade is a 2D platformer starring Branson, a man with enchanted shapeshifting facial hair that he uses to attack the various monsters attacking the villages of his homeland. A pretty standard setup, but the game makes up for a lack of narrative novelty with the various ways that our title character utilizes his mystic beard. Need to grab a ledge? Morph the beard. Need to springboard off the ledge? Pull back on your whiskers and let yourself soar through the air. Need to climb up a rocky wall? Why not turn your beard into two massive hands and climb that way? There is seemingly no limit to the traversal possibilities that Branson’s mighty beard unlocks.

Having played through the demo that Glovebox Games have so graciously provided on their Kickstarter page, I have nothing but praise to give the work in progress. I was instantly brought back to the days of playing through Super Mario World and the Donkey Kong Country games on my Game Boy Advance (which is where I personally experienced most of the SNES-era platformers I’ve played). I dashed through a seaside port area, nailing jumps and smashing Goomba-esque foes with a mace made of stubble. After that, I climbed to the top of a lighthouse and faced off with a twin hooked sailor that had captured some hapless villagers.

The art, the music, the presentation of the game over screen—it is all pitch perfect. Even better, none of this attention to detail has detracted from the gameplay, which is already as tight as you’d want it to be. Best of all, Beard Blade doesn’t even feel like a direct homage of anything. Like Shovel Knight, it is lifting mechanics from several different classic titles and marrying them to a wholly original world of their own design. It works so well, and the only things that make this demo feel like a pre-alpha build are a few minor animation bugs and the fact that it lasts about as long as Green Hill Zone.

In all fairness, this isn’t the first time that Beard Blade has caught my eye. Development has been ongoing for a while, and I covered the game once before last year. Since then, I’ve followed along on Twitter, and the work that is being done with every update gives me faith that Beard Blade can be a quality platformer if given the chance. The game is currently on Kickstarter, looking to raise $95,000 before the end of the month. It’s quite a goal, but quality doesn’t come cheap, and I believe that there is enough potential here to be worth the investment. Even if you don’t have the dough, you can help out our fuzzy hero by voting for him over on Steam Greenlight.

What do you think of Beard Blade? Are you able to open your heart up to another quality 2D platformer? Can someone please release an indie themed Smash Bros. and put Branson in it? Answer some of these questions and more in the comments below!

Alex Santa Maria

Reviews Editor

TechRaptor's Reviews Editor. Resident fan of pinball, Needlers, roguelikes, and anything with neon lighting. Owns an office chair once used by Billy Mays.

  • Aiat

    Sadness….I dont think they will hit their goal.

  • That’s part of the reason I wanted to get something out about it. I think it could be a smash if it just gets more eyes on it this month. It would be a real shame to not see this game released.

  • Aiat

    Yeah, their goal is a little bit too high to be honest for a project of this caliber. I think they wanted to mimic this:

  • Louis

    An indie themed smash bros/crossover game is one of those things that I would love to see realized, but I simply don’t think it could ever become a real worthwhile project. Look at Indie Assault. Look at Indie Game Battle. The only crossover game that hasn’t instantly crashed and burned was a Super Mario Kart clone. I attribute the main problem to two main issues: no experience, and no names. And that second problem ties directly into the first.
    The developers of Indie Assault had never made a game beforehand, and the developers of Indie Game Battle not only have nothing but unfinished and abandoned games under their name, but they filled IGB’s roster with 16 different characters from their own unfinished games. A character roster is a limited commodity, based on who you have the license to use and who you have the time and skill to implement, and for every nobody you add, be it four characters from one of your own games, an original indie character you made specially for your crossover fighter, or some kid from an indie game called Escape (who the hell thought that was a good idea? Who thought that this was a title that could ever be located on the internet?), you lower your chances of getting real names behind your project. You think Drinkbox wants their megahit Guacamelee represented along with the likes of D-listers like Tim from Fist of Awesome, a blue ball with arms literally named Blue Blob, and an evil wizard named Wizard?

    If it’s not obvious by now, I have very strong feelings about an indie crossover game.

  • coboney

    I don’t think the issue is the amount so much as a perception that projects asking for too little have caused that games are cheaper to make then they are.

  • By instantly crashed and burned, do you mean Super Indie Karts? That game is A-OK in my book. I don’t know when you last played it but it’s still in Early Access development and I’ve enjoyed my time with it.

    The continued existence of that game gives me hope that an indie Smash Bros can get off the ground and impress.