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Nelson Schneider's Video Game Reviews (416)

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I Am Setsuna 2.5/5
Assassin's Creed Origins 4/5
Boot Hill Heroes 3.5/5
The Bard's Tale IV: Bar... 4.5/5
The Bard's Tale Trilogy 1.5/5
The Bard's Tale III: Th... 1.5/5
The Bard's Tale II: The... 0.5/5
The Bard's Tale: Tales ... 0.5/5
The Technomancer 2.5/5
Tyranny 3.5/5
Pine 2/5
Victor Vran 3/5
Front Mission Evolved 2/5
Greedfall 4.5/5
The Deep Paths: Labyrin... 3/5
The Vagrant 4/5
Avadon: The Black Fortr... 2/5
Mass Effect 3 3.5/5
Mass Effect 2 3.5/5
Mass Effect 2.5/5
Knightin'+ 3.5/5
Indivisible 3/5
Final Fantasy XIV Onlin... 2/5
A Total War Saga: Troy 3/5
Stardew Valley 3/5

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Knightin'+   PC (Steam) 

The Essence of ‘Zelda’    3.5/5 stars

“Knightin’+” is the commercial evolution of the Flash game, “Knightin’,” which was originally released as a free demo on Newgrounds. Developed by the one-man Ukrainian Indie, Muzt Die Studios, “Knightin’s” aim – whether in its free Flash incarnation or its cheap Steam incarnation – is to capture the essence of early Action/Adventure games as exemplified by Nintendo’s “The Legend of Zelda.” And with Nintendo no longer ‘held back’ by its hardware, top-down, traditional, official ‘Zelda’ games are off the table (except when considering the endless stream of remakes). As a fan of these traditional Action/Adventure titles, I’m always on the look-out for Indie games that are stimulating in the same ways. While “Knightin” does successfully capture the essence of 8-bit dungeon puzzles, the overall experience is too stripped-down to really feel like a proper spiritual successor.

“Knightin” is a traditional 2D, top-down, sprite-based Action/Adventure game with 8-bit styled sprites (though the underlying engine is far more complex and capable than anything that was actually released in the 8-bit era) with a fixed birds-eye camera that give the player a view of a dungeon, one whole room at a time. Characters are cartoonishly chibi styles, with short statures and big heads, while the game’s variety of monsters are generally cute and silly.

Audiowise, “Knightin” is merely passable. There’s no voicework in a game such as this, as expected, and while the sound effects are well thought out and executed, the soundtrack is a far too limited and repetitive, which invariably leads to it becoming grating.

Technically, “Knightin” is rock solid. Nary a glitch, hitch, or hiccup mars the game’s performance, and it fully supports Xinput natively. Even better, though, “Knightin,” like most modern games, doesn’t include an instruction manual, but as a substitute, the earliest dungeon rooms have hieroglyphs carved into their pixilated floors that explain both the keyboard and controller inputs, which is a stroke of understated brilliance.

“Knightin” is a modern Deconstructionist look at classic Action/Adventure titles where, in the past, the story was either nonexistent or poorly localized. In lieu of parodying the Engrish that plagued so many early Japanese games, “Knightin” spoofs the entire concept of a knight going on a journey, exploring dungeons, and accumulating loot. Our hero is Sir Lootalot, who is off to… well, explore dungeons and accumulate loot! There’s no princess in need of rescuing or world in need of saving: Sir Lootalot is only in it for the treasure.

This tale of Sir Lootalot is narrated through animated scrolls that appear at the beginning and end of each of the four chapters. And while the narrative is bare-bones by design and sardonic by intent, I think it misses the mark with its satire just a bit. In classic Action/Adventure games, like ‘Zelda,’ we didn’t think about ‘loot’ in the same way we thing about it in a post-‘Diablo’ world, where even FPSes and Beat ‘em Ups have randomly generated pieces of equipment that randomly drop from defeated enemies. “Knightin” doesn’t have any of that moder-style looting, but features fixed dungeons with fixed treasure locations, and these treasures act more like traditional power-ups, granting the player (and Sir Lootalot) more capabilities, which are required to progress further through the subsequent dungeons and their puzzles.

“Knightin” is also an incredibly short game, clocking in at 5 hours for my blind run, though there is also an achievement for clearing the game in 90 minutes (which would require writing down oneself a detailed walkthrough, then rushing a second playthrough while the layout is still fresh-in-mind). I was really hoping for a bit more length and depth from the game, but at least it didn’t wear out its welcome by sticking around too long.

“Knightin” distills the classic style of Action/Adventure gameplay down to a thick and flavorful paste, boiling off any and all redundant concepts. Thus, there is no overworld. The player is simply given a list of four dungeons (which must, generally, be completed in order). Sir Lootalot starts with nothing, but quickly acquires a basic sword, before expanding his arsenal to include an array of capabilities, such as a dash move and a magic wand that throws fireballs.

The dungeons in “Knightin” are so painfully evocative of the original “Legend of Zelda,” it’s almost painful. However, unlike their inspiration, the dungeons in “Knightin” automatically provide the player with an auto-map. Furthermore, each dungeon is a 4x4 square grid, though all of them have multiple floors, each also a 4x4 grid. Generally, the puzzle designs in “Knightin” are excellent. While there are standard sliding block puzzles and floor-plate puzzles, the solutions to these (which are frequently carved on the dungeon floors, much like the instruction manual) are elegant, looping the player through deceptively simple dungeons in surprising and delightful ways.

Unfortunately, the excellent puzzle designs in “Knightin” are complemented by generally dreary combat, with random trash enemies respawning every time Sir Lootalot goes up or down a staircase (though the numerous dungeon rooms with doors that only unlock after all enemies are slain remain unlocked for subsequent visits, preventing things from becoming too tedious). The combat’s overall lack of quality and interest comes to a head with the game’s four boss battles. These are 100% pattern memorization exercises, oftentimes including ‘from above’ attacks that are impossible to dodge visually – you need to know they’re coming and dash out of the way before you even see that something’s about to happen. The underwhelming length of Sir Lootalot’s sword (no, not that one) and the fact that his magic wand (no, not that one) requires magical stamina to use (there’s a pip-based magic meter, but only one pip regenerates, provided the entire meter is empty) further throw a wet blanket on the combat, making every non-puzzle-based activity in the game feel like a chore.

For a one-man effort, “Knightin’+” is a strikingly polished experience. However, while the dungeon-based puzzle-solving is truly excellent, the combat and boss designs are truly… not. But for a cheap Indie game, it provides decent value for the price (shaking out to about $1.50 per dungeon, when not discounted). Thanks to its stripped-down, essential nature, “Knightin’+” just isn’t capable of scratching the ‘Zelda’ itch, but a more fully-realize sequel could be a thing of beauty.

Presentation: 3.5/5
Story: 2.5/5
Gameplay: 3.5/5
Overall (not an average): 3.5/5



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