Gameplay: 8/10 Graphics: 8/10 Sound: 8/10 Originality: 9/10 Overall: 8/10
Play at: http://armorgames.com/play/4206/knightfall-2
Knightfall 2 is a highly original puzzle-RPG featuring a somewhat nonlinear series of quests, and gameplay that incorporates mechanics similar to Bejewlled and Collapse, but with the addition of roguelike elements and a few unique twists. That’s quite a mash-up, and probably hard to visualize, so allow me to go into more detail.
I say it’s a puzzle-RPG, but it’s really more puzzle than RPG. Although there’s some semblance of a plot (just the usual stop-the-great-evil stuff), it’s completely forgettable, and neither influences nor is influenced by the player’s decisions. Furthermore, while most puzzle-RPGs only use the puzzle portion of the game as a sort of abstracted mechanic for combat, here, the player’s movement, fighting and collecting of items are all woven into the puzzle mechanics.
The player’s knight starts each level in the centre of a grid of square tiles, along with at least one monster, a key, an exit door, and occasionally one or more bonus items. Unlike most games, the player has no direct control over the main character. By using the keyboard or clicking arrows on-screen, the player can rotate the grid, while by clicking on tiles in the grid, the player can destroy orthogonally-connected groups of tiles of the same colour. Depending on which way the grid is oriented at that point, all blocks, characters and items – even the exit door! – above the destroyed tiles will fall down to fill the gap, while new tiles fall into the grid from above.
In this way, the player can either move his character around the screen to fight monsters and collect items, or else bring them to him. Each monster has its own attack pattern, represented by highlighted squares on-screen when the player mouses over the monster. The easiest monsters only attack horizontally adjacent squares, while the more challenging foes can hit a wide range of squares. The player, meanwhile, slays monsters with his drill-lance by dropping onto them from above.
Destroying blocks costs energy – only a single point for groups of three or more, but there is an energy penalty for destroying single blocks and groups of two. When the player’s energy runs out, he starts losing health instead; getting hit by monsters also depletes health. Energy is restored between levels, while health is not, though there are plenty of healing items available. Destroying blocks and slaying monsters also earns the character experience points (towards leveling up in typical RPG style) and fills up a meter at the bottom of the screen, gradually allowing the character access to various magical abilities, ranging in power from simply shuffling the tiles on-screen to wiping out all enemies on the level. Power-up items work in a similar fashion, being stored in the player’s inventory until used for various effects.
As you’d expect, each level is completed by collecting the key, and then making it to the exit door. Each quest has between three and eight levels, and the longer quests have a boss stage at the end. Each boss features a unique mechanic, both in terms of how it attacks, and how the player must defeat it.
The gameplay is fun, though too easy; I only died perhaps three times in the course of beating the game, usually due to lack of attention, and continues are unlimited. The game would benefit greatly from the addition of difficulty modes. The main challenge is working out the strategy for the first time, but once the player has learned to predict the consequences of destroying a given group of blocks, most levels other than the boss fights tend to be a cakewalk.
The overworld map consists of a bunch of nodes connected by paths, similar to Super Mario World. Some nodes represent quests, while others are shops, taverns (for healing damage between quests), or just NPC encounters to advance the plot, such as it is. It’s an appealing alternative to a linear progression of levels, but unfortunately, aside from the bosses, there isn’t really much difference between one quest and another, so it amounts more to an illusion of choice than a real, strategic decision.
The game’s graphics are much better than most Flash fare, featuring pretty decent pixel art. The contrast between the player character and the tiles is not always great, but the grid is so small and simple, there’s never any question of not knowing where everything is – it’s only a mild aesthetic problem. The sound and music are likewise above average, though nothing that will leave a lasting impression.
This is definitely a game worth playing, and it’s very addictive – it takes a few hours to complete, and I was unable to tear myself away until I’d done so. There’s a lot of potential here for a Knightfall 3, and if the author chooses to produce it, I hope he will add difficulty levels so that the more hardcore among us will be able to give ourselves enough of a challenge to feel the sense of accomplishment we crave. More variety in the quests would be welcome as well – perhaps featuring special “terrain” tiles, different sizes/shapes of grid, etc., rather than merely varying in terms of proportion of the various monster types.