May 20, 2013 8:33 AM | Paul Hack
Bladeless, a Ludum Dare 26 jam entry by kidevil, really captures the swiftness and brutality of what samurai duels must have been like (or at least as they are in chanbara flicks). This is a game of tactics, observation, and reaction. By paying attention to the position of your opponent's sword as he draws it, you can predict his attack and block it, then counter with your own blade. That's the rhythm of the gameplay: approach an enemy, wait for his thrust or slash, block it, return a devastating counter, repeat until one of you is dead.
The slick silhouette graphics, sounds of clanging steel, and red gouts of blood make for a visceral effect, and the tension is thick as you wait for your foe to strike. You never deliver a blow first in this game; you only parry and counter (maybe it's some odd code of honor). There are 3 types of attacks: low, middle, and high. Observe the angle of your enemy's blade and you can tell where he'll strike. As soon as you make up your mind, you can lock in your block (A for high, S for mid, and D for low). Choose swiftly but carefully, because you can't change your block until the next attack. Anytime after you set your blocking stance, you can lock in your counter-attack (up arrow for high, right for mid, and down for low). If all goes well, you'll block the incoming attack and then land your own. After a few blows make contact, one of you will generally end up in 2 or more pieces.
It may take you a few rounds to get used to how the game is controlled, but once you do, you'll be slicing up samurai as efficiently as Zatoichi himself. A nice touch is that you may never encounter the same samurai twice; all of them are randomly assembled from a large assortment of parts--parts which you'll be easily hacking off with a bit of practice.
Go on, test your mettle against samurai steel. Play Bladeless in your browser.