Blackthorne (released as Blackhawk in some European countries) is a cinematic platformer video game developed by Blizzard Entertainment. It was released for the SNES and DOS in 1994. The cover art for the SNES and DOS version was drawn by Jim Lee. The following year, Blackthorne was released for the Sega 32X with modified graphics, higher color palette and four new levels. In 2013, Blizzard made Blackthorne available as a free download.
SNES box art
Mass Media (GBA)
MicroMouse Co. (PC-98)
MacPlay (Mac OS)
Blizzard Entertainment (GBA)
|Producer(s)||Ronald Millar Sr.|
|Designer(s)||Ronald Millar Sr.|
|Programmer(s)||Frank Pearce Jr.|
Ronald Millar Sr.
Ronald Millar Sr.
Frank Pearce Jr.
|Platform(s)||SNES, DOS, Sega 32X, Mac OS, Game Boy Advance, Windows|
Blackthorne is set on the planet Tuul, which has existed for centuries without human knowledge. All of this time, Tuul's people have been ruled over by a single shaman who "was blessed with all knowledge". Years before the game begins, Thoros, the latest ruler, finds it near impossible to choose between his two sons as the next ruler. Believing it will solve the dilemma, he leads them to the deserts and kills himself. His body becomes two stones, light and dark, and he gives one to each boy to rule their own kingdoms respectively. The people of the lightstone form the kingdom of Androth, and the people of the darkstone form Ka'dra'suul. But while Androth respects their stone, Ka'dra'suul reject theirs, and are eventually transformed into monsters by it. In this time, a ka'dra named Sarlac seizes power. He forms an army and leads them against Androth. Knowing of his people's doom, the ruler of Androth, King Vlaros, with the aid of the Androthi magician Galadril, sends his son Kyle to Earth to save his life. Vlaros also gives Kyle the lightstone for safe keeping.
Twenty years later, Kyle has become a renowned military captain and mercenary. After breaking out of prison facing court martial, Kyle begins having strange dreams, and is eventually confronted by Galadril. He is told that it is time to return to Tuul and save his people. The game begins here with Kyle setting out to kill Sarlac and reclaim his throne.
Kyle ventures through the land fighting his way to Sarlac's castle. He confronts Sarlac and threatens to keep his skull as a mounted trophy on his wall. The two battle and Kyle is the victor. He avenges his father, King Vlaros. Kyle then becomes king of Androth, where it is stated that he ruled justly, fairly and with honor for many years. The final shot of the game shows him sitting on the throne with a woman sitting next to him. Sarlac's skull is seen mounted on the wall as a trophy, just as Kyle had promised.
The game focuses around protagonist Kyle "Blackthorne" Vlaros, out for revenge on Sarlac and his minions. The gameplay involves large platforming sequences, in which Kyle can run and climb around the environment, find keys and items and progress to the end of each maze like level. Combat in Blackthorne takes the form of gunfights. Both Blackthorne and his enemies can press against walls to avoid incoming bullets. Blackthorne can also fire blindly behind himself. During the game, Kyle uses a pump action shotgun as his primary weapon. As the game progresses, Androthi allies will help him upgrade the weapon, increasing its speed and power.
The game has seventeen levels within four areas—the mines of Androth, the Karrellian forests/swamps, the Wasteland desert and Shadow keep. The Sega 32X version includes a fifth area, the snowy mountains, which is not found in the other versions of the game. As the game progresses through these areas, Kyle becomes stronger and better armed, but so do the enemies.
For the first versions, the sprites for game characters were done using rotoscoping techniques just like Prince of Persia, using over 1000 frames to get smooth, lifelike animation. The Macintosh version improved the quality by using prerendered, motion-captured sprites. Interplay had intended to port the game to Sega Genesis but instead did so for the Sega 32X. There was also plans to port the game to PlayStation and Sega Saturn, but those plans were cancelled. A 3DO version was showcased by Interplay at E3 1995, however, the port was never released for unknown reasons.
Electronic Gaming Monthly gave the SNES version their "Game of the Month" award, praising its dark tone, amazingly smooth animation, complex and intelligent gameplay, and the ability to kill prisoners after getting information from them. GamePro gave the SNES version a positive review, calling it "Flashback with an attitude." They particularly praised its detailed graphics and stronger emphasis on action over puzzle-solving as compared to similar games. They gave the 32X version a positive review as well, remarking that "With a solid graphical overhaul, Blackthorne delivers where many of the 16-bit conversions flounder in the 32X library."
A reviewer for Next Generation called Blackthorne "one of the best arcade-style games the [PC] has ever seen", citing the accessible and intelligent gameplay, smooth animation, and the "dark feel of the game". While noting that the game was over two years old by the time it was released for Macintosh, Next Generation gave this version a positive review as well, concluding that "At the very least, Blackthorne is one of the best - and only - action games to come out for the Macintosh in the last year."
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