Sine Mora and Black Knight Sword: Grasshopper's creative downloadables

Grasshopper Manufacture is known for its eccentric game designs. Two of their upcoming games made the strongest impression with me. Black Knight Sword and Sine Mora are downloadable games being made in a partnership between Grasshopper and Hungary-based Digital Reality. The smaller scope of these games helps concentrate the studios' creative energies. focalbox Black Knight Sword expands upon the 2D platforming levels of Grasshopper’s recently released Shadows of the Damned. The player is an actor in a paper puppet play, playing through five levels--each representing the five acts of the script. In addition to curtains to draw back and start the show, Black Knight Sword includes a narrator to fill the role of storyteller. The striking look of the game draws on a 19th century Czech-European influence. The enemies I saw during the demo were all grotesquely twisted humans, done in such a unique way that there was a certain appeal to them. Everything about Black Knight Sword oozes atmosphere, so it came as no surprise to hear that Grasshopper’s Akira Yamaoka has an expanded role in the design of the game that goes well beyond just its soundtrack. Instead of being a classic "save the princess" adventure, Black Knight Sword sends the player out to defeat the princess, who is an evil dictator ruling the land. She’s been twisting her subjects into the monsters the Black Knight must defeat to ultimately end her reign. Though they have the numerical advantage, they cannot stand up to the assault. The combat system favors timing and coordination of movement and attack over old-school multi-input combos. I was able to get a few special moves with classic fighting game fireball commands, though. It felt smooth, and I’m ready to sit down and play the full game when it comes out next year. The other collaboration game, Sine Mora, also feels great to play, and that’s critical for a game with an old school shoot ‘em up design.

Boss fights look particularly good in Sine Mora

As the screens show, the two developers, Grasshopper and Digital Reality, have come together to make a great looking shooter. With so much passion going into the project, there’s also a desire to bring the shooter back and reintroduce it to a larger audience. To do that, Sine Mora includes a story mode intended to be easier to play, with a learning curve that teaches players how to dance around the screen, dodging bullets and enemies, while taking out the enemies. Lest the hardcore worry, there’s of course a full on arcade mode that will push experienced players as hard as they want to be, and then some. Both Sine Mora and Black Knight Sword are planned for 2012 release, which leaves some development time still to work on them. Based on what I played here at the Tokyo Game Show, they’re already in good shape and that time should allow the teams to really fine tune them prior to release. Compared to other Grasshopper games that have felt at times like they were trying to hold too many creative ideas in one package, these two games could be just the right channel for distilling the best of those inspirations into fun to play games.