Under most normal circumstances, shouting angry comments about someone’s colour in public would get you in a lot of trouble. But that’s exactly we all ended up doing at EGX this year, during our playtime on Endemol Shine’s latest competitive creation, Black & White Bushido.
Like the striking, minimalist aesthetic at the core of Bushido’s design, the game itself is quite simple. Up to four players choose from a black or white selection of Edo-period, Japanese archetypes, before duking it out 2D-brawler style across one of five beautiful, brushstroke-style arenas.
The two competitive game modes available from the off are Deathmatch and Flag Capture, both of which can be played with either human opponents or up to three AI’s. The differences between the two modes are negligible however, and the more hectic nature of Bushido’s CTF, means this is likely where you’ll spend most of your playtime. Ultimately, both game types involve repeatedly cutting down enemy combatants, which is where Black & White’s combat comes into play.
At a glance, the swordplay is remarkably simple, but a little experimentation reveals a surprising level of depth. A single attack button swings your character’s chosen tool of destruction, but combined with a flick of the analogue stick, can be used to perform angled strikes and dashes both on the ground and in mid-air. A single, successful hit is all it takes to dispatch an opponent, so being able to keep a cool head and carefully time attacks, goes a long way towards succeeding in battle. There’s no block button per se, but should two players strike each other simultaneously, the blades clash together and repel their wielders backwards in an enjoyably cinematic moment straight out of a nineties’ anime.
The biggest gameplay twist lies in Bushido’s stealth mechanic, which allows you to blend into parts of the stage you share a colour with and dispatch unsuspecting foes before they’ve a chance to react. This is triggered by remaining still against your corresponding colour for a moment and can even be used while moving (at a greatly reduced speed) by pressing and holding the walk button. It’s an unusual twist on the brawler formula, but one that adds a brilliantly tense dynamic to Bushido’s unique gameplay.
Thrown into the mix are a selection of single-use pickups that regularly spawn around the arenas. Shuriken are self-explanatory, adding a ranged attack to an otherwise melee-focused repertoire. Caltrops slow the movement of enemies who step on them, preventing them from jumping and causing a bleed effect (allowing you to easily spot anyone sneaking around.) And smoke bombs teleport your character to a previously marked location, which is handy for when multiple foes are bearing down on your position.
Outside of multiplayer there’s a challenge mode for single-player assassins looking to hone their skills. However the randomly generated sequence of objectives the mode puts you through, range from the laughably easy to the frustratingly difficult, and offer no real reward other than personal satisfaction and bragging rights.
Overall, Black & White Bushido is a gorgeously stylised indie brawler with some great new ideas and genuinely addictive gameplay. The audio design compliments the unique visuals beautifully, with traditional Japanese Taiko drums and woodwind accompanying your monochromatic clashes. Since there’s no online play and the challenge mode offers little replayability, the game’s longevity depends entirely on how often you can get another three mates sat around the screen; but £6.99 is still a great price for this excellent example of indie, Edo-themed entertainment.