Reviews

Knightmare Tower Review

Juicy Beast is the team behind some very popular Flash games. After another studio helped them port Burrito Bison to iOS last year, Juicy Beast decided it was time to learn Unity so they could start publishing their own games to iOS and other platforms. Tonight marks their first iOS release since then, a self-published and completely revamped port of the awesome Flash game Knightmare Tower.

You play a knight who launches himself up an enormously tall tower using only a rickety rocket and his trusty sword. His motivation is to rescue the king’s 10 kidnapped daughters and take out the big baddie responsible for kidnapping them. Of course, the Big Bad is at the top of the tower. The princesses, on the other hand, are spread throughout the tower’s height.

A launch starts before your rocket takes off. A slider on a power bar will constantly move up and down and your goal is to tap the screen with the proper timing to maximize your rocket’s power. The knight will ride the rocket until it’s out of juice, at which point he jumps off, maintaining all the upward momentum. On top of rescuing princesses and taking out the tower’s boss, an ever-rising pool of lava serves to motivate your constant ascent. As you rise, all kinds of flying monsters appear in an effort to take you down. There are over 50 kinds of monster, each with its own flight pattern, attack method, and hilarious face-contorting grimace. Getting hit by a monster means losing some speed and taking some damage. Slow down too much and the lava will catch up to claim your life. Lose all your health and you’ll die anyway.

It’s a brutal ascent but our hero is not helpless. Tapping the screen causes the knight to dive downward, sword-first. The knight will bounce off any monster on the receiving end of this blow. That monster will also take some damage and, if defeated, reward the knight with a speed boost. The knight can move freely side-to-side, which you control by tilting your device. Monsters randomly drop loot in the form of extra health, gold coins, and power-ups. Finally, if your hero falls off the bottom of the screen but the lava hasn’t caught up yet, he’ll take a big hit to his speed and ride his rocket back up to the top of the screen. It really doesn’t make any sense, but it makes the game much less punishing when you miss a dive attack — something you will certainly experience often.

Gold, of course, can be spent to upgrade your hero’s gear. Each time you rescue one of the 10 princesses, they will permanently unlock a new power-up. These range from screen-clearing bombs to potions that give temporary super abilities, to mystical horns that summon legendary but valuable monsters.

The whole package is a great deal of fun. Climbing the tower ever higher is a blast and the same upgrade compulsion from Burrito Bison is present in full. Each run will earn more gold which you can spend on upgrades to make the tower easier to climb. Greater heights (and a better luck stat) lead to even more loot, which leads to even better gear. This loop repeats itself until you make it all the way to the tower’s peak and engage in a challenging boss fight. The knight begins his journey with a questionable rocket, wooden sword, flimsy helm, and leather boots. It’s only a matter of time before a pile of split-open enemies and pockets full of gold lead to a loadout that looks both shiny and deadly.

Juicy Beast’s excellent artwork, character designs, and animations are on full display and look fantastic on retina screens. Everything is really fluid and after the initial loading screen when you launch the app, loading times between shopping and launching are minimal. Also present is a fantastic soundtrack from Irish duo HyperDuck SoundWorks. They’ve done a bunch of video game work, but their iOS oeuvre includes Book of Heroes and The Blocks Cometh.

If you’ve played the Flash version, you know how fun and engaging Knightmare Tower can be. At this point, your only concern should be the controls. Rest easy, the controls are great. Despite the game offering only one control method and no way to tinker with it, the tilt controls are responsive and perfectly suited to the high-paced action. They are very sensitive, but you should adapt to them after a few plays (that doesn’t mean you still won’t be diving off-screen over and over again). While I think the controls are perfect, it’s a simple fact that we all play games differently. Some players are vehemently opposed to tilt controls even when they’re done right, so it seems like a bit of a misstep for Juicy Beast to leave out a non-tilt control option and a way to adjust the tilt sensitivity. That said, I remain unconcerned about the controls; they are very usable already and I’m sure Juicy Beast will be open to adding some control options if enough players ask for it.

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