Ever wanted to battle your friends in hectic ninja fights where you all need to take advantage of the shadows (and the light) to stealthily take out your foes? Well, now’s your chance – after launching on PC last year, Black & White Bushido has brought its monochromatic multiplayer sword fighting to Consoles. It comes with the added bonus of online multiplayer available at launch too, taking away the restriction of actually needing friends to play it with you. It’s a simple yet satisfying multiplayer experience, but does its simplicity come at the cost of longevity, or will you find yourself quickly getting bored of hiding from your foes?
Black & White Bushido is incredibly simple in design, putting up to four players against each other across two teams (shadow and light) in simplistic combat. You can run and jump across the map all whilst slicing at enemies with the game’s accessible controls, allowing just about anyone to pick up and play the game with ease. There’s a twist though: the game is made up entirely of black and white, with players from the shadow team able to blend in with the black environment and players from the light team able to blend in with the white environment. If you stand still whilst in your corresponding colour you’ll become invisible, with enemy players unable to see where you are. You can sneak around too, meaning you can navigate each level without being seen provided you stay within the confines of the colour that matches your team. As soon as you start moving with pace though your character’s position is given away, so it can quickly become a game of cat and mouse as you pursue or evade your opponent. It’s a cleverly implemented system that’s a lot of fun to play around with. It adds an air of unpredictability to the game that you never know where your opponent is, though the ever-shifting colours of each level ensure they can never stay in one spot for too long.
Attacking is simple, with one button used along with the analogue stick to determine the direction of your hit. You can send attacks from all directions, allowing you to pounce down on enemies that are below you or even those jumping above you if you’re quick enough. You can’t button mash though – you have to string attacks together in a well-timed combination, otherwise you’ll find yourself vulnerable to a blow from your enemy. If you do attack each other at the same time though you’ll bounce away from in a clash of swords, so sometimes you have to think quickly and tactically in order to take your opponent out.
The whole ‘black and white’ element of Black & White Bushido makes it incredibly strategic though, giving the game its own unique feel. It’s incredibly satisfying to sneak your way to an enemy and wiping them out without them having any clue to your presence. Of course, it works against you too, with only faint clues of your opponent’s position ever made clear to you. You’ve often got to decide whether you’ll take your time to out-think them, or instead go an all out assault at the cost of making your position known to your foe. The unpredictability of it is what makes Black & White Bushido so much fun though.
You can also pick up items to use, though they’re fairly limited. You can use a smoke bomb that allows you to teleport to a pre-determined place on the map, a shuriken that gives your character a ranged attack, or ground spikes that will cause an opponent to bleed and have limited movement if caught by them. Whilst these are effective and add an extra degree of strategy to the game, it would’ve been nice to have had a larger selection. Also, every time you pick up an item an indicator remains above your character’s head briefly. This gives away your position for a short time, taking away the stealth element of the game. It made me actually avoid grabbing items at times, especially in situations where the score was incredibly close.
Black & White Bushido features seven levels that each manage to feel different from a design perspective. Whilst their 2D layouts might feel the same from an aesthetic standpoint, the different positions of walls and obstacles can certainly spice things up. Some might have trees that block your path when trying to reach enemies, some might have tunnels where there’s no escape, whilst others might have higher walls that you can scale up to escape an enemy’s reach. Each level offers you a completely different way to approach the game, be it by trying to gang up on an enemy from both sides or simply trying to take them out from directly above them.
The maps wrap around themselves too, so you’re able to run through an exit on one side of an arena and come out on the other side. This works well when you’re trying to sneak up on an opponent, or if you’re feeling particularly clever and throwing a shuriken at them from behind (probably the most satisfying kill you can achieve). With the gameplay typically feeling the same throughout, the variety in level choice does keep things interesting. All of the levels manage to feel distinctly different, which is pretty impressive for a game with such a limited design palette.
You’ve got two game modes that can be played competitively in Black & White Bushido: Deathmatch and Capture the Flag. Deathmatch sees the shadow and the light team battling out to see who can rack up a certain amount of kills first, whilst Capture the Flag tasks you with taking control of different flags that sporadically appear on the map to increase your score.
They’re both entertaining to play, with each providing a different experience that will switch up how you play the game. Whilst Deathmatch is the most pure of the modes with its emphasis on simply racking up your kill count, Capture the Flag is more chaotic thanks to the fact you make your location obvious to the enemy when trying to take control of a flag. With that in mind though, it makes the mode a lot less fun in one versus one – you really need to have a team of two, otherwise it’s just a constant cycle of both players rushing to the flag and killing each other just before it is captured.
Whilst both modes are fun, it would’ve been nice to have had a few extra just to add a little bit more of a variety to the experience. It’s not that you’ll get bored of the modes on offer, but that they can make the game feel a little too predictable over time, especially during those longer play sessions. The lack of a free-for-all was disappointing too, especially since I was often playing with just two other players – it meant one of us would be at a disadvantage, with the option of an AI teammate always proving to be more of a hindrance.
There’s also a single player focused Challenge mode that tasks you with collecting flags and killing enemies to achieve the highest score possible, but it isn’t all that entertaining. The dumb AI of your opponents makes it a little too easy, whilst there’s nothing that makes you want to chase those high scores. An online leaderboard would’ve made it a more worthwhile test, but with nothing other than personal glory on the line it’s too easy to get bored of.
Black & White Bushido is a multiplayer focused title, though it is possible to play against bots across all modes. I wouldn’t really recommend it though, since the AI isn’t really all that great. Enemies are incredibly predictable and barely pose any threat to you, with them typically not only making their presence incredibly obvious to the player but also being slow at dishing out attacks. It’s nice to see the option there for solo gamers to play the game alone, but it’s not the most fulfilling of experiences you’re going to have with the game – Black & White Bushido is clearly at its best when played in multiplayer.
Black & White Bushido’s monochromatic look works incredibly well, with the emphasis on just the two colours actually having a really slick feel to it. However, it did have one issue that I noticed after playing the game on two different TVs. I noticed that on one TV it was easier to make out the light team running against a white background than it was to notice the shadow team running against a black background. Now I don’t know enough about the technical side of TVs to suggest what causes this, but it did end up giving the shadow team more of an advantage when it came to sneaking around. Again, I have to emphasise that this might not be a problem depending on your TV, but it was something I couldn’t help but to notice.
Black & White Bushido is a unique multiplayer experience that’ll really hook you in with its emphasis on sneaking around maps and taking out your opponents, though it’s slightly lacking as far as content goes. Whilst the seven maps offer plenty of different locations to fight across, only having two competitive multiplayer modes meant it got old fast. Don’t get me wrong, it’ll provide plenty of entertainment whilst it lasts, but I felt like I saw everything the game had to offer within the first hour or so.
Despite this, I’d still recommend Black & White Bushido for anyone who like a bit of good old fashioned local multiplayer fun. It might be a short lived experience that you won’t come back to time and time again, but the time you do spend with it slicing up your friends from the shadows (or light, whatever) will be a hell of a lot of fun.
Developer: Good Catch Games
Publisher: Good Catch Games
Release Date: 17/05/2017
Format(s): Playstation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC, Mac