You Spin Me Right Round, Like A Wrecker, Baby
HIGH The bots all have appealing designs and personalities.
LOW I wish there was a bit more strategy to it.
WTF I still haven’t found an instance where teleportation would be helpful.
It makes me happy to pick up a game that has even half the amount of care and attention that Blade Ballet’s developers put into it. Everything about the presentation feels crisp, immediate, and appealing. Beauty is only skin deep, though.
In Blade Ballet, players control small robots outfitted with swords and shields. The bots can spin, lunge forward, and perform a number of other offensive actions to destroy their opponent. One direct sword hit is enough to destroy a bot, so players must carefully balance caution and recklessness.
There are a number of bots from which to choose, and each is outfitted with a different configuration of weapons and shields. Some have three blades surrounding their hull, making them spiked balls of destruction. Others have one extra-long sword and extra shields, giving that bot the advantage of range, but requiring more precision when going in for the kill.
The bots are fairly maneuverable, but the controls come off as a bit floaty. The floatiness seems intentional, though, almost as if the bots are pucks on an air hockey table.
The predominant form of attack is spinning around using R1 or L1, turning each bot into a whirlpool of blades. As much as I tried to play the patient, thrusting fencer, I found myself being repeatedly beaten by those who constantly spin – they’re like the Tasmanian Devil holding lightsabers.
Because of this dominance through spinning, it becomes, essentially, a game of luck. Whoever’s sword makes contact first wins. I would prefer that the swords instead pushed the opponent backwards when making contact, since all of the stages are peppered with obstacles and traps. As is, the one-hit kill mechanic demands precision, but the spinning and floaty controls favor blind aggression.
For these reasons, Blade Ballet feels a bit confused. On one hand, its quick death mechanics and wide selection of fighters imply that it aspires to be a more strategic game of positioning and spatial awareness, like Nidhogg or Furi. On the other hand, its floaty controls and reliance on unpredictable stage hazards seem to indicate that it wants to be a wacky party game, like Starwhal or Gang Beasts. As it is, it doesn’t dedicate itself to either and serves as a lesser approximation of both.
While the visuals are appealing and the bots are full of life, I find myself a bit let down by the gameplay. It’s not precise enough to be a true ballet of blades as the title implies, and really, it’s too bad since the market has room for a top-down Nidhogg. On the other hand, it’s too precise to be a wacky laugh-with-your-mates brawler like Gang Beasts, which it could have done equally well. As is, it is a decent game within reach (in either direction) of being something much greater.
Disclosures: This game is developed by DreamSail Games and published by DreamSail Games. It is currently available on PS4 and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS4. Approximately 2 hours of play were devoted to the multiplayer-player mode. There is no single-player mode.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E10+ and contains Fantasy Violence and “Users Interact”. Though it is a game about blade-based combat, there is absolutely no gore or dismemberment of any kind.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The game can be played without audio without any detriment to the experience.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
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