First Impressions: Black Knight – Sword of Rage

Watch-out, that Black Knight’s flail is one mean mech! This game is brutally fast, unforgiving and a whole lotta damn fun!

The thumping soundtrack from Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian greets us as we approached Stern’s new offering, Black Knight: Sword of Rage (Pro model) at Zax Amusements. The striking artwork is typical Stern, it’s high calibre like their other titles, something that we have grown accustomed to, and possibly take for granted. The Black Knight mech with it’s glowing menacing eyes, the spinning flail and shield are the centrepiece of this Steve Ritchie designed game. Oh yeah, we can’t go any further without mentioning that Steve Ritchie lends his voice to the Black Knight.

Just in case you weren’t around 40 years ago, here is a quick recap: the iconic pinball character, the Black Knight, makes his return in 2019 to entertain new (and old) generations of pinball players with the third game in the Black Knight trilogy, the Stern Pinball made Black Knight: Sword of Rage. Dare we say, this could be Steve’s magnum opus (Ed: Actually, all of Steve’s pinball creations are magnum opuses!).

Before we get to our first impressions and thoughts on this game, we can tell you that this machine comes in three models, Pro, Premium and Limited Edition. We got to play the Pro edition at Zax Amusements with the optional mirror blades, which we highly recommend you get with your machine as it adds depth of field. Since we only played the Pro model, we can’t really compare it to the Premium and Limited Edition models which both feature a transparent upper playfield with a distinct 3-ball lock mechanism for a 6-ball multiball.

OK, here we go, Black Knight; Sword of Rage is a helluva lot of fun! Our games on the machine were short, brutal and enjoyable. Most importantly, the game had us coming back to it over and over again. We actually wondered why we wanted to play the game again since it was so brutal, but the simple fact is, the game is just so much fun to play and we just wanted to keep battling that damn menacing Black Knight and see if we could progress further in the game.

We read a lot of negative comments about the game’s playfield lacking toys and other interactive mechs, but we are here to tell you that sometimes less is more! In the case of this machine, once you press the start button it does a great job in immersing you in the battle against the evil doer and his horde. This immersion is accomplished via stunning hand-drawn artwork, brilliant integrated LCD visuals, a ripper soundtrack, great call-outs from Barenaked Ladies frontman Ed Robertson and of course Steve’s voice as the Black Knight. And the cherry on top of this yummy pinball cake is the custom sculpted, interactive, and multi-functional Black Knight bash toy. But wait, there is more to this bash toy than meets the eye – the Black Knight has a bi-directional motorised flail, a glowing RGB helmet with individually controllable expressive lighting to taunt you with and a sliding (coil-driven) shield that brutally bashes and blocks your shots – we found this was the quickest way to drain our silverball, even with the Magna Save button (which is on the lock-down bar), we were constantly too late at activating it – perhaps the Magna Save button would have been better served near the right flipper button, but that is a slight niggle we could overcome by playing the game more.

The old expression of never judge a book by its cover comes to mind when attempting to write about our first impressions of Black Knight: Sword of Rage. We admit that when we first saw the game on the net, we thought, “is that it?”, but boy were we wrong! If you are or were a fan of the previous iterations of Black Knight, then this game compliments them perfectly and brings the franchise into the 21st century. Our final word, reserve judgement till you stand over the machine and have a go. You never know, you may be pleasantly surprised. Now go to battle!

Black Knight: Sword of Rage pinball machines are available right now from Zax Amusements.

Thanks to Phil and Scott from Zax Amusements for their hospitality and opportunity to play Stern’s Black Knight: Sword of Rage.