Bard’s Gold Review – PC/Steam

Bard’s Gold is another retro pixel-art platformer that does a fantastic job of reuniting aging gamers with the games that they played 20-30 years ago. There is nothing terribly complex about the concepts at work in this platformer. You control a pixelated dungeon explorer who looks remarkably similar to a certain Nintendo hero.   With limited lives and one-hit kills from enemies and traps, prepare for an iron-man gaming experience that will test your reflexes and old-school gaming skills.

Bard’s Gold is procedurally generated so while levels look similar each time you restart, there are enough subtle changes to keep you on your toes. There is a nice variety of monsters, each with their own attack variations like the zigzagging bats or the turbo-charged green slime.   You’ll need to kill these monsters as well as smash all the jars, urns, and open chests to collect treasure to spend in the shop. Find the key before the timer expires to exit each puzzle screen.

The game does offer some character progression by offering permanent character upgrades at the end of each game. This lets you spend any leftover money you didn’t spend on temporary upgrades in the shop during the game. This creates some interesting strategy in whether to spend your cash on temporary boosts or save up for something that stays with you for future games.

For a pixel-art game the art is surprisingly fresh and colorful, although I found the initial dungeon level way too dark – almost to the point of being unplayable without turning up the brightness of my TV. I can’t count the number of times I died by coming in contact with a bat that I didn’t even see. Sound effects and music are minimal but fit perfectly with the concept and presentation while never getting repetitive or annoying.

I normally get frustrated with games designed around the live-die-repeat concept, but every time I died in Bard’s Gold I was able to make my character a little bit better and last a little bit longer in each subsequent game.   It’s definitely a slow burn and something you probably don’t want to marathon, but when taken in small doses Bard’s Gold is a refreshing trip back to those classic Atari and C64 platformers from the 90’s.

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