Sunday, January 1, 2012

Wind-Up Knight (iPod Touch)

Time Played: ~1 hr
What Happened:
I saw some trailers for this game awhile back, so as soon as I got my iPod Touch I wanted to check it out. It's similar to a Canabalt or Bit.Trip Runner style gameplay - your character automatically runs from the left to the right and you react to things in the level - jumping over them, attacking them, rolling under them and shielding yourself from them. Like Bit.Trip Runner, there is only one correct action for each obstacle (so for example, you have to kill a Cockatrice as opposed to jumping over it). Also like Bit.Trip Runner, the levels are pre-created (so it's not an 'endless runner'). If you make a mistake in timing, or use the wrong action, you instantly die and start the level over. 

What I Liked: 

Introduction of Elements. I think it was helpful to not start out with all 4 buttons at once. Building up to 4 made the game a lot easier to learn. That being said, they probably could have introduced them a little quicker (a concept like "jump" doesn't need a whole lot of time). I also didn't immediately understand that shield and roll worked as long as you held the buttons down. I never actually figured out shielding on my own - I complained to Issam about how it was hard and he told me you could hold it. I also felt roll was difficult to time properly, and I discovered that it was the same as shield by accident. :) 

Animation. Simple, cute animation. The squash and stretch helped the actions feel satisfying. There are also small camera animations (I think there's a camera shake when you shield) which really helps the overall feel of the game. 

Background Art. Beautiful levels. Very cool art! :) 

Control Scheme. I think it was a pretty good solution to use 4 buttons to control your character. It's not 100% perfect, in that it's easy to hit the wrong button (buttons could benefit from being a little bit bigger), but it allows this game to have slightly different gameplay than other endless runners.

What I Didn't Like: 

Music. Now that I'm in the second grouping of levels, the music is a lot better, but for the whole first 'book' the music is a total snooze fest. Considering the actions that you are taking while playing, I think more upbeat music would have fit the mood a lot better, and made the overall experience feel a lot more fun. 

Enemies. For all of the polish of the environments and main character, the enemies are a little lackluster. :) There's only one enemy for the whole first book, and he's pretty much completely static. The knight has a lot of personality in his movements, so it would be cool to see that in the enemies. Now that I'm in book two I've finally come across a new enemy - and I actually feel a little bad when I kill him. 

Level Readability. This game occasionally suffers from the same issue we had when we made Sushi Runner where you have difficulty distinguishing background objects from things that are going to kill you. The issue is mostly that the lighting is pretty uniform, so things don't always pop out immediately. I found that the more I played, the less of an issue this was.   

Pretty Princess Primer. I know they were just trying to be funny... but I didn't care for these at all. The Pretty Princess Primer is a series of tips that appear during the loading screen. They are generally tongue-in-cheek one liners like "Many men can be acquired by simply pretending to admire to their pontifications" or "A princess with a high tolerance for liquor has many opportunities for mischief." I guess I sort of found them borderline offensive. Also, what's up with the level named "Wet Dream"? I know I'm being picky... but this is my blog. 

Item System? I see where they were going with the item system, but I didn't find it very engaging (although I generally don't care for item systems in general). As you progress and earn money, you can buy specialty items, like a helm that makes you resistant to fire, or a magnet shield that causes money to come towards you. I think that in the start of the game, too much time was passing before I could afford new items, so more than anything I was just forgetting about them (although you do get notifications when new items are unlocked). I didn't feel like I needed these things to get through the levels, so I wasn't really interested. 

Wind-Up. It's really cute that he's a wind up toy, but I can see absolutely no reason why he should be a wind-up toy as opposed to a real knight. There's a mechanic where you can 'run out' of juice, but it happens so rarely that you don't even think about it - it also could have been handled differently (like, you're hungry or something). I guess I was a little disappointed because when I first heard the title of the game, I thought he might live in a toy world, or the real world as a toy, or that there would be some sort of fantasy magic around this point.... but really it just appears to be completely random. 

How Do I Feel About Continuing?: 
I think I'm nearing the end of my time with Wind-Up Knight. It's a cute, polished game, but I feel as though I've seen all that it has to offer me.

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