Bard to the Future on PC
Ah, the storied 2D platformer. For those of us who grew up in the 8-bit age, this was often the first and most-played genre that we had access to. Bard to the Future would have fit in perfectly with those days. A simplistic, straightforward adventure, Bard to the Future focuses on the misadventures of a so-called “Battlebard” and some unlikely companions that join the hero as he travels through time. Filled with difficult jump-heavy levels, an array of enemies, and some clever jokes, this title sounds promising to those of us who grew up on the genre. Does this time-travelling tale find a place in modern gaming, or is its true place back in the early days of gaming?
Bard to the Future begins with the heroic Battlebard — a half-bard, half-knight of some kind — in his own time. In desperate need of a toilet, he finds his way to a nearby porta-potty that, for some reason, he doesn’t question. Of course, the strange device turns out to be a time machine, and it’s not long before our protagonist finds himself in the modern world. Stumbling upon some lowly nerds in the midst of a pen-and-paper RPG, he makes quick friends after some rough introductions that include questioning whether or not a Battlebard is a legitimate class choice. After smoothing things over a bit, the three set out on a zany, disjointed quest through time, seeking to collect the pieces of a map leading to an ancient treasure.
What Bard to the Future does well is, unfortunately, mostly limited to the cute story and largely well-written humor. Unfortunately, the rest of the game feels pretty subpar. Enemies, while varied in their appearances, are all on simple back-and-forth tracks, and the traditional falling-projectile element offers little variety. While the armor-clad Battlebard might look formidable, defeating foes is only accomplished by jumping on them or executing a “power slide” from behind. Striking enemies from the front, like most anything else, results in immediate death. The controls are loose and difficult to get a handle on, especially in areas where the level environment includes elements like slick ice or small platforms in rapid sequence.
While Bard to the Future seems to flounder in a lot of ways, the quick-witted writing brings some much needed respite to frustrating play. The Battlebard even offers up quips upon death, including asking the player if they’re killing him on purpose when the death toll reaches ten or more in a single level. It’s a good thing that the story and dialogue offer something fresh, because the rest of the game is pretty uninspired. While the sound and graphics aren’t horrid, they’re certainly not enough to breathe life into an otherwise bland experience.
Probably the best thing that I can say about Bard to the Future is that, with a meager $4.99 price tag on Steam, it’s an easy buy-in to take a flyer on. While I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone but hardcore devotees of the 2D platformer or indie games, it’s at least in the bargain bin status that it likely belongs in. With some good wit and an interesting enough concept, it presents a few reasons for the curious to check out. Still, with an unimpressive overall aesthetic, floundering controls, and skimpy level design, I’d say your money is better spent on something with a bit more meat to it.