Zelda is not an RPG.
Whew. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, it’s important to understand that Knightin’+ is a Zelda-like dungeon crawler, and is also not an RPG. But it is a competent, if not somewhat predictable title that offers a streamlined experience with combat, puzzles, and bosses that will crush you and everything you hold dear. Fun!
Knightin’+ has players assuming the role of Sir Lootalot, a vaguely Shovel Knight-looking individual who plunders dungeons just because. While there is an overworld map, it’s simply used to give some context to the world and show you where each of the dungeons is located. All of your time controlling Sir Lootalot will be spent in dungeons, and it’s most definitely a hoot.
Dungeon exploration boils down to combat rooms, which need to be cleared once in order to permanently unlock the doors to adjacent rooms, and some light puzzling that often amounts to block pushing and switch hitting. The game acts as its own tutorial, accompanying each new acquisition with a text box that explains said item’s utility. You’ll quickly collect a sword, precious keys, a shield, the ability to dash, and oodles of money even as you traverse through the first dungeon alone, but each item will see its fair share of usage. A strategy the game often employs is a visual tease of a later treasure chests- usually inaccessible behind switch-operated walls- where you’ll need to loop back to an earlier floor in order to get at your loot from the proper entrance.
While the first dungeon doesn’t demand a great deal of equipment usage, later dungeons have you obtaining an item that re-contextualizes the elements present, offering some puzzling twists and turns. Likewise, enemies slowly become more difficult to defeat due to their abilities and behavior, but your equipment scales at an equal pace and demands usage in order to maximize its effectiveness. Some of the best moments in Knightin’+ are its subtle and optional puzzle rooms, where complex block and switch positions are used to wrack the player’s brain and force them to use some logic.
If there’s one aspect that is unusually cruel, however, its the design of some of the game’s later bosses. The first is fairly straightforward, and although the subsequent encounters may look familiar, they force the player to use their equipment and abilities strategically, lest they die in the first four seconds of the battle. I’m not kidding- it can happen, especially if you decide to skip over some early-game, optional items. You will have to remain focused if you want to navigate around their dangerous attack patterns, which is a spectacular culmination to some admittedly slower-paced dungeon crawling.
Narrative and Aesthetics
The story in Knightin’+ is simple, the only motivation for Sir Lootalot being… well, his lust for loot. This conflicts with the gameplay structure, however, as there are several in-dungeon shops where mister Lootalot must spend his hard-earned cash in order to obtain valuable health options and character upgrades. There’s another aspect of this that proves rather problematic, but we’ll touch on that in a bit. Why would he be willing to part with his lovely coins? This opposition of gameplay and story is irritating, but mostly harmless.
The game’s chunky pixel graphics are enjoyable to look at, despite many rooms feeling similar after having backtracked through them several times. Once you’ve visually processed a room, the mechanical side of your brain will take over and do the navigation. These dungeons are just that, and rarely do they deviate from the “dark, underground structure” theme. Although the visuals are serviceable, the music is actually very catchy and dynamic- you’ll hear the same bass and/or drum rhythm as you cross from shop to the more dangerous rooms. Though Lootalot’s travel speed is somewhat slow, the very methodical, chirpy tunes on display remain delightful throughout.
Impressions and Conclusion
Knightin’+ is a very linear experience- you can’t break the sequence of dungeons intended by the developer, and although you can intentionally cripple yourself, it will only prolong what is a rather short title. Each dungeon takes approximately forty minutes to an hour, although this isn’t surprising, given its price point. It’s a title meant for quick consumption, and for the particularly brave, might allow for some speed running. Where there might be some variation is in the utility of the in-dungeon shop, however.
Much of the game’s environmental progression is based around gathering keys, which unlock various doors throughout each dungeon. While many of these keys are locked behind exploration and puzzles, you can buy a key per dungeon in order to progress further. This feels cheap, because it allows you to circumvent a specific part of the dungeon that you find problematic in the immediate sense, but doesn’t really reward your investment in the long-term, as you’ll eventually have to go back and find that key anyway. In a speed-running sense, it could be used to streamline a segment of gameplay, so let’s just leave it at that.
Though Knightin’+ wears its inspiration on its sleeve, it’s taken lessons from its predecessors and stripped out the fluff in order to make a focused, dungeon-solving experience. Though the walking speed is perhaps a bit too slow even with the early-unlock dash attack, it doesn’t overstay its welcome, managing to hold your attention throughout its brief playtime.