Wind-up Knight 2 Review (New 3DS)
Clever and increasingly complex level designs
Extra challenges add lots of replayability
Great performance and nice 3D effects
Few character customization options
Wind-up Knight 2 is easily one of the best and competent budget games I’ve ever played. Between its use of humor, clever level design, and smooth performance, I enjoyed every minute of my play including the loading screens. Though I found the overall aesthetic to be weak, Robot Invader put real love into this simple runner and it shows.
A three level tutorial teaches players the basics of controlling your windup knight. While running’s done automatically, players must double jump, wall jump, slash, roll, and shield their way through obstacles. This simple set of controls balances nicely with the increasingly intricate level design; harder sequences of obstacles call for combinations of and quick switches between these simple commands without explicitly stating so. The simple nature of the obstacles themselves gives gameplay an intuitive feel, making the introduction of each new mechanic simple and enjoyable without the need for any further explanation. The feeling of discovery is a lasting element that drew me in from the start.
A few customization options available grant perks and let you slightly alter the appearance of your knight. A metal helm, for example, let’s the knight survive one falling obstacle per life. Most customization options, however, didn’t feature any perks. I feel this is one area that needed a bit more imagination to bring greater value to the in-game currency system. Luckily, all the purchases in the store were done using in-game currency.
Levels are unpredictable and exciting to surmount. Reacting to obstacles on the spot made each level’s first attempt consistently the most exciting, especially given the one-hit lifespan of your knight. The memorization of each environment gets thwarted by the three extra challenge modes offered for each level. In main story missions, you’ll be collecting coins to rack up your score and wind-up keys to keep your knight in march. Often, missing a key pickup can the end for the run as your windup gauge runs dry. One mode has players catching fairies in a butterfly net, one places deadly coins in the optimal paths of each level, and another diamonds in hard to reach places. The deadly coins challenge proved to be particularly arduous; fighting that ingrained urge to collect anything that shines or spins had me facepalming left and right. It’s a simple reversal that proved incredibly frustrating in a fun way.
During load times, the bottom screen on the DS fills up with a Twitter feed spoof where we hear from users such as teh BLaCK KNiGHT and ThePrincessTM about their daily lives. Not only are their posts humorous but they present a story, however small, that seems to serve as a backdrop to actual gameplay: from what I gathered, the princess is sent on a quest by her father, the black knight is bitter at certain members of the kingdom, and the king tries to constantly spoil his daughter. There’s even a clickbait called MoorFeed that posts articles like “The Cutest 8 Plagues Rats You’ve Ever Seen” and “Top 10 Reasons the Earth Is Flat.” Even though you never meet any characters face to face, they’re each brimming with distinct personalities and voices. Their tweets range from nerdology and pop culture – George naming his adopted hamster “Danzig” that later falls ill and the king starting a crowdsourcing campaign to fund his daughter’s quest – to straight up, well-timed humor, some of which was simply genius. While the narrative never entangled with gameplay, I don’t see it as a fault because of how original the presentation was. Wit wins.
The game’s 3D effects were very well done with environments clearly showing depth and portraying obstacles and the frame-rate remaining consistent, even with the New 3DS’ 3D slider all the way up. The music is pleasant but extremely forgettable, remaining unobtrusive but doing little to enhance gameplay. And yet the game’s overall aesthetic felt uninspired. Your wind-up knight features extremely basic animations and, despite some beautiful backdrop environments, the parts of levels you actually interact with remain basic throughout, with wood, stone, and iron features only the simplest of textures. I personally would pass-up fidelity over performance any day but in this case feel designers could’ve done more. Incorporating the “wind-up” toy idea into the entire world, for example, could’ve helped better unite the game’s premise and world.
A tournament mode lets players compete locally on a single console by passing the New 3DS around. Players compete for a high score in rounds of levels by collecting the most gem pickups scattered throughout each level, often in the most precarious places. It’s a small mode but a welcome bonus for killing time with friends.
Wind-up Knight 2 is features everything and a little more you’d expect from a runner. You’ll laugh, find a solid challenge, and have plenty of more reason to replay. It’s sense of humor played a great role in winning me over but still, at a launch price of $4.99 on the New 3DS, it’s truly one of the best values in the Nintendo Marketplace.
(Note that Wind-Up Knight 2 is playable only on New 3DS systems. It is not compatible with original model 3DS or 2DS hardware.)