For 10,000 years he slept. His mind feeding on the nightmares of the weak. Now he has awakened, as the night bled crimson the fireblade shattered and its power died. Then the slaughter began. They never thought he would return. Now HAVOK reigns the under city. I am Hiro, the last of the bladeknights, I must rebuild the fireblade and bring the dawn…
As Hiro the last of the bladeknights, you have been given the kill or be killed task of defeating the murderous Havok and restoring peace to the under city of the cyberworld of Thraxx.
Starting at the backdrop of a wasteland, sky burning a crimson red fire, Hiro is the only one who can mend the shattered fireblade which has been broken into 16 pieces and scattered around a massive and impressive, 150 screen dark and eerie underground platformed labyrinth. To save the under city from Havok’s evil reign, Hiro must collect all 16 pieces of the shattered fireblade so that he may use it to defeat Havok in an ultimate final battle. But, who said saving the under city was going to be an easy job for Hiro?
Using all his warrior cunning, stealth and fighting experience and the use of a hi tech and very powerful reprogrammable cyber arm, Hiro sets out across the platformed underworld to put the shattered fireblade back together, seeking to avenge his people and restore peace and order.
Havok’s evil trained to kill hoard, spawn from all over the under city in great numbers and you will have your hands full helping our warrior Hiro defeat enemies that include cybats, mansnakes, spikelice, spidorbs, crestheds, reptilions, scorpoids, flamhogs and cobras. While Hiro maybe small in statue compared to his enemy, Hiro is very agile and moves freely and smoothly and he packs a mighty punch and strong kick to send the evil hoardes to their deaths.
Along the journey there are a number blocks in the walls to break down to expose hidden pathways and a number of boxes to shatter revealing special bonus ups for health and shields or bonus letters that form a word and provide a bonus life or bonus points and there’s also a very large range of weaponry to collect for his hi- tech and powerful cyber arm such as a blade, tri spikes, scorchball, dart, splinblade and needle bolts all having varying degrees of effect on Havok’s evil army.
The hi-tech cyber arm proves to be very worthwhile and necessary indeed as there are 5 different levels to complete all with gigantic end of level bosses who all smell your blood and are eager to make you another statistic of Havok’s evil reign of the under city.
Unlike most early platformers of its era Switchblade employs a different approach, instead of walking into a room already open with everything to be seen, Hiro walks into rooms partially open and that’s where the game really excels. It thrusts you to explore more, to uncover more, to play more, to open more, to try different things and I believe this appraoch was the only one of its kind in this commercial 8-bit era of gaming.
The theme is brilliant, it’s dark, it’s underwordly, it’s evil you get a very real sense of where you are and what is required. Right from the opening screen when the game has loaded you hear a frantic style of tune with beautifully presented dark and eerie cut scenes that really blew you away back in the day as it was rare for 8-bit games on the Amstrad CPC in this era.
The character sprites, screen graphics, the backgrounds, the frantic playing tune which can be turned on or off, all the weaponry, all the colours, the screen sizing it all works perfectly well together. What I like about what developers at Core Design did with the gameplay, is make you think at the start the game would be easy but as you work your way through Swithcblade you find it to be a very challenging and thoroughly enjoyable video game.
Unknown to most gamers, the Amstrad CPC+ and console were released in 1990 and the Switchblade console and plus versions came out before the normal Amstrad tape and disk version in 1991.
It was a significant coding achievement at the time as Core Design working for Gremlin only used mode 1 which normally would mean only 4 colours on the screen at one time but with the Amstrad plus and console’s hardware extra features the coders used split screen techniques and hardware sprites to produce upto 16 colours on a screen in the 4 colour, high resolution mode 1.
Switchblade, at time of release in 1990, really was a stunning display of graphics and gameplay on an 8-bit machine that rivaled the bigger 16-bit machines. It was well illustrated in Rod Lawton’s review in AA64, pg 52, in an interview with Gremlin’s technical guru James North-Hearn in comparing the Amstrad+ version and the Atari St version saying “ If I could play either one of them I would probably be more likely to play the Amstrad console version”.
Overall rating 9.8 out of 10
Massive 150 screens to explore.
Awesome GFX and sound
Awesome sprites, enemy, weapons
Awesome feel and theme to the scenario.
Not a lot wrong with this game at all.
Some may find its too many rooms to explore but I don’t.