Bleak Sword DX is an action-adventure title for the Nintendo Switch. It hails from Apple Arcade, bringing retro-style sword-slashing antics to our favorite hybrid console in over 100 levels of carnage.

The setup is intriguing and reminiscent of something more epic than the simple graphics portray. When the king is betrayed, a new ruler assumes control with the help of the Bleak Sword. This cursed blade leads to 200 years of death and destruction until a lone warrior arrives to bravely set things right. His quest is to retrieve three magical stones and destroy the wicked blade once and for all. 

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This journey takes our hero across 12 distinct worlds, each housing 10 levels. I love the layout, with each level presented as a single screen of enemies to defeat. The environments ensure things don’t get stale, taking us from forests to swamps, and even on horseback. The enemies also vary wildly, encountering everything from simple bats and slugs to tougher knights and hideous monsters.

The graphics are a highlight with an aesthetic of black, white and red. The sprites are all simple 8-bit characters, but the game utilizes this bare-bones approach very effectively. Each level is full of life, with bridges, grass, trees, and more on display. It’s amazing what can be achieved with lines and colors, making this title easily stand out against the crowd.

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The gameplay is one of those “easy to pick up, difficult to master” situations. There are only a few moves available: attack, roll/dodge, and block. Putting them into practice in a relatively small space crowded with enemies becomes challenging. Blocking, in particular, is important to master; it must be timed just right in order to work properly. When you pull it off, though, it opens up room for a double attack, which is handy against tougher foes.

Tough is certainly one word to describe Bleak Sword DX. Frustrating might be another. This is no walk in the park, even on the easiest difficulty setting. You can choose from normal or doom, with a third more difficult option locked initially. I had trouble progressing even on the easiest setting; I can only imagine how hard it gets when ramped up a notch or two. While the difficulty is part of the proceedings, I feel like it will put off a lot of players. Jumping back into a level is quick and easy, and each level really only lasts a minute or two, but after 100 attempts at a particularly hard round, it starts to get old. My advice is to step away and try again later.

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As the name implies, Bleak Sword DX is the deluxe version of the original 2019 title. The Switch release includes all DLC, updated visuals, and new modes, like a boss run and a randomizer. It provides multiple ways to play that should keep players busy for some time.

Overall, Bleak Sword DX is a tough sword-slashing adventure that stands out thanks to its interesting visuals and standalone levels. It’s an exciting outing that feels fresh and looks great, though the difficulty level may be too high for some players.