Blacken Slash – Review
Follow Genre: Strategy game
Developer: ehmprah
Publisher: ehmprah
Platform: PC, Android, iOS
Tested on: Android

Blacken Slash – Review

Site Score
Good: Plenty of strategic possibilities and lots of replayability
Bad: Convoluted story and poor explanation of game mechanics
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(0 votes)
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The old saying ‘one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover’ is something that can be applied to video games as well, and Blacken Slash, the subject of today’s review, is a perfect example of this. Developer ehmprah describes the game as ‘a tactical RPG fusing the best of roguelikes, turn-based tactics and hack and slash games’, but at first glance Blacken Slash looks like little more than a bunch of colored shapes on a grid. As we found during our time with it, there is much more to the game than meets the eye.


While there is a story present in Blacken Slash, we wouldn’t be able to recall it if you were to ask us what it’s about. This is because the writing is terribly convoluted and the delivery is scattered in between gameplay explanations. From what we understand from the blurbs that appear between levels, the player takes on the role of a friendly computer tasked with defending a network from invaders. These blurbs represent a monologue delivered by CHIP, an AI that talks directly to the player. As an example of how poorly written everything is, however, just take a look at one of the screenshots that represent the dialogue below and try to see if you can make some sense of it. Add to this that explanations of in-game mechanics are delivered in the same way -and even WITHIN story text- and you’ve got a game with a narrative that isn’t easy to figure out at all. After an unsuccessful run, you’ll be presented with the option to skip any story parts that you’ve already read as well, and given how the focus is primarily on gameplay we recommend you do so.


By blending retro computer graphics with a sleek and simplistic interface, Blacken Slash sets itself apart through art direction. It’s not the most impressive game from a visual point of view but the excellent use of color adds some much-needed flair and makes the game more appealing. Particularly of note is that the iridescent rainbow colors of the “protagonist” pyramid and the neon colours seen in specific menus are those commonly associated with synthwave artwork. This blends wonderfully with the retro computer aesthetics and the game’s music. A particularly nice touch here is that these colours also fade as the pyramid loses hit points.



We were pleasantly surprised that Blacken Slash actually had some work put into its soundscape. It’s nothing mind-blowing but the synthwave tunes and retro sound effects help make the game feel like a finished product. Mobile games often overlook audio worth listening to, which is understandable because they’re usually played with the sound off. We suspect that the presence of a well-rounded OST has more to do with Blacken Slash being available on PC, but the inclusion in the mobile version is appreciated nonetheless.


Despite its abstract appearance, Blacken Slash is actually a relatively simple game. It looks far more complicated than it actually is in practice. It doesn’t help that the gameplay can’t be described in simple terms either, but we’ll put in our best attempt. In Blacken Slash, you take control of a rainbow-colored pyramid as you take on geometric shapes like cubes and cylinders on a battlefield grid. In order to claim victory, you’ll need to use CPU kernels to activate scripts that are used to attack and take out enemies. If this sounds like you need some sort of coding knowledge, rest assured that the whole kernels and scripts angle is little more than fluff, and had Blacken Slash opted for a more traditional thematic setting, like fantasy, the core gameplay experience would have remained pretty much identical.

That core gameplay experience boils down to a turn-based, roguelike dungeon crawling game. Each level presents players with a simple objective, whether it’s reaching a specific point on the grid or taking out all enemies. After clearing a level, you are rewarded with in-game currency and new kernels which you can use to upgrade your pyramid before moving on to the next level. Of note here is that any damage you’ve taken is carried over, so we found that the kernels that helped us regenerate hit points were the most useful, but your mileage may vary depending on your playstyle. Nodes you pick up are randomized and you have a limited number of slots available to equip them. You choose whether to equip or salvage what you pick up. By salvaging, an unused kernel is converted into currency, which can then be used to upgrade your equipped kernels. A large part of what makes Blacken Slash fun is mixing and matching specific kernels in order to work out different strategies to beat a level: if your pyramid can teleport, you’ll play differently from when you have a heavily armored tank at your disposal. You can also spend currency to store kernels in your bank and use them for future runs, which adds some replayability as you can prepare for new possible strategies in this way.

All in all, Blacken Slash is a surprisingly efficient time waster on your phone that feels intuitive when it comes to its core gameplay, but it could be a lot better at explaining how things work. There will be a lot of trial and error involved with your first few runs, and it can be hard to distinguish gameplay explanations from the story, especially because the writing is so convoluted and filled with computer jargon. We do feel like the game feels at home on a phone because of how short the levels are and although we know the game is available on PC as well, we can’t imagine playing it with a mouse. This is a title that feels perfect to play for a few levels on your commute or on a break. Despite the simplistic core gameplay, the sheer amount of possible kernel combinations make for a game that provides plenty of strategic opportunities as well as plenty of challenges. Note that there are no save points, so when it’s game over, you’ll have to start a completely new run -although that means trying out new strategies or aiming for specific achievements. Ultimately, there are plenty of reasons to keep returning to Blacken Slash so anyone looking for a challenging time-waster should take a look at the game.


All in all, we were pleasantly surprised with Blacken Slash, although we had to overcome a couple of barriers before the game really started to shine. The convoluted writing, inadequate explanations of the finer mechanics, and abstract visuals make for a game that doesn’t feel all that welcoming. Once you make it past all that, you’re looking at a bit of a diamond in the rough. This is a title that has to put in some work to convince players of its merit, but that ultimately becomes a joy to play if players stick with it.

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