Is it fair to judge a game that seems to be abandoned? Not in the sense of a lack of patches or support by the company, but a lack of player interaction. This is especially true when it comes to multiplayer-centric titles, for every Team Fortress 2 and Call of Duty there are tons of smaller, dead multiplayer products out there.
Unfortunately, this is the case for one indie game on the PlayStation 4, Black & White Bushido. It’s a small title, from an indie developer named Good Catch Games, and it was originally released back in October 2015 for the PC. The PlayStation 4 version of the game is a recent addition, but sadly, this multiplayer focused title is devoid of the very thing it needs to thrive.
The premise alone is fantastic. It’s a team-based combat game that has two teams of Japanese warriors duking it out in sharply contrasted light and shadow. Think of that famous episode from Samurai Jack but turned into a four player, 2-D arena battle. It’s great in concept and also does well in the execution. Fantastic artwork accompanies the theme, with contrasting light and shadow being the primary artistic focus. In this sense, it is a beautiful, if simple game to look at.
The controls are simple as well. You select your faction, either light or shadow, and you battle it out on seven different arenas. There are four different avatars to pick from, but outside of cosmetics, there are only minute differences between them. You then use the arena to your advantage, hiding in the light or shadow and waiting for the right moment to strike your opponents. Throw in some power-ups, such as shurikens and teleportation, and you got a simple and effective 2-D brawler.
There are three gameplay modes, with seven different maps to use. The first is the standard deathmatch, first to kill a certain number of enemies is the winner. Capture The Flag is a back and forth between teams of two as they try to secure flags to bathe the arenas in total light or shadow. The third gameplay mode, Challenge, is perhaps the most unique. It combines the standard capture the flag mechanics with a constant onslaught of enemies being spawned to kill you. To add to this is a one-hit kill on the player, meaning when you die, you lose.
Challenge mode is the mode I enjoyed the most, but that was because it was the only gameplay mode that was single player friendly. It was also an actual challenge, providing a decent score chaser to play. Ultimately though, this was the highlight of the gameplay in the end, as the other two modes are comically easy when playing against the A.I.
This is ultimately the biggest problem, with Black & White Bushido. Single player is pretty much not an option, the A.I is very basic but the game doesn’t allow the player to have any A.I controlled bots in multiplayer matches. On top of this, offline play is always against A.I opponents, so combat becomes tedious when going against one-three computer opponents at a time. The A.I never hides, and just roams the arenas in deathmatch and use simple patterns of attack in Capture the Flag. Only in Challenge mode are they really a threat, which is perhaps why it was the most impressive mode of the bunch.
It’s a shame that there is very little play online. In the two weeks with the game, I was able to get less than ten online matches overall, and all but one of them were Capture the Flag matches. All three took a lot of time to even find players for, and most matches last 5-6 minutes on average. The amount of time sunk into waiting for an online match is simply not worth it, which is a shame because the game's concept and theme are perfect for an online brawler.
This is sadly not just a problem with the PlayStation 4 version either. If Steam Charts are to be believed, the peak amount of players for the game has been only fifteen people, with Black & White Bushido barely cracking six concurrent players at a time on the PC version. The game, unfortunately, is dead in the water in regards to the one strength it had with it's gameplay modes; most players will be unable to play the game as it's intended to be played.
Black & White Bushido simply doesn’t have a large base of players playing the game to make it a worthwhile experience, magnifying the flaws of the title further. It certainly makes rating the game even more difficult, but the other issues the title has - poor A.I, the boring gameplay modes - could have been mitigated a bit if there was a solid community supporting things. Even the PC version, by virtue of having a theoretical bigger pool of players, is not a viable option here. Perhaps a review like this might convince players to start trying it out for themselves now and again?
Or it might be for naught. In the end, Black & White Bushido’s premise is more interesting than the final product. Hopefully, the title picks up some business in the long run, but many indie titles like this live or die on their established fanbase. In the case of Black & White Bushido, it needs to build up a base or be left in the shadows.
Black & White Bushido was reviewed on PlayStation 4 with a code provided by the developer. It's also available on PC via Steam.
- Great Premise...
- Smooth Controls...
- ...Shallow Gameplay Modes.
- ...Poor Use of A.I Bots.
- Virtually No One Playing Online.
- Struggles to Unlock Full Potential.