Developer: Freak Zone Games
Available on: Nintendo Switch (reviewed)
Price: $2.99 USD
In a nutshell: Ghosts n’ Goblins meets Flappy Bird
Serving up equal parts Ghosts n’ Goblins and Flappy Bird, Freak Zone Games’ Knight Terrors is an affordably priced pick-up-and-play arcade game that’s as addictive as it is simplistic. It’s a spooky looking endless runner (and flapper?) that ramps up the challenge and rewards persistence with additional modes and power-ups, and despite incurring a few minor issues it’s definitely deserving of a place on your Nintendo Switch.
With just a jump and an attack button, the premise is simple: leap and flap over spikes and through openings while slashing away at a variety of monsters for as long as possible. A press of the jump button works as you’d expect, while multiple taps spread the hero’s crimson wings and lift them higher with each press. Our nameless hero begins with three hearts, which depletes by one whenever they take damage, but you also have to be cautious about enemies filing in from right to left. If three enemies make it past you in any given stage, it’s game over. Everything can be taken out with a single swipe of the sword, but it’s up to you to manage your elevation while attacking and evading.
Although there are only two buttons, you can choose to jump by pressing left on the d-pad, as well as the L or Y button. Likewise, you can attack with R or A. I was more comfortable early on using L and R, but I don’t find the JoyCon’s shoulder buttons to be very reliable when they have to be mashed in succession. I eventually migrated to using the d-pad and R, which has nailed me my highest scores as of this review.
Once a certain number of enemies are slain, you’re thrust into the next stage where the difficulty ramps up and new enemies or hazards are introduced. What begins with simple zombie walkers and bats eventually make way for wavy skulls, bobbing UFOs, and suddenly appearing ghosts, in addition to full-on spiked floors and moving platforms to dodge. It gets real intense real fast, accentuated by RushJet1’s lovely chiptunes that accelerate alongside the difficulty.
Reaching above a specific high-score unlocks power-ups that appear in subsequent attempts, which make it easier to progress further and further. These familiar boons, like arcing axes, boomerangs, and throwing knives, fire off whenever you attack (keeping with the two-button theme), and, while helpful, sometimes fucks me up something awful.
Knight Terrors is all about adapting to whatever obstacles are thrown your way and having an oncoming enemy killed off in the distance by a power-up (particularly with more than a few enemies on the screen at a time) occasionally offsets my rhythm. This can be exacerbated with a rare power-up that unlocks every sub-weapon for 10 seconds, littering the screen with axes, knives, boomerangs, and a hefty ball and chain whirling around the suit of armor. Said power-up certainly makes it easier to clear the screen of baddies, but makes it difficult to avoid platforms (especially the moving ones in later levels). As does the “MISS!” prompt, which dramatically freezes the screen for a split second and plays with my rhythm a bit whenever I’m on a roll.
It always remains fun, though. I haven’t been able to put the game down for four hours.
One of my favorite aspects of Knight Terrors is the easily unlockable Flight Terrors mode, which litters the floor with spikes and requires you to remain in the air throughout its entirety. Since it’s a bit trickier, Flight Terrors removes the skull meter (the one that kills you should you let three enemies pass you by) and serves as an equally enjoyable distraction from the core game. Power-ups unlocked in Flight Terrors also appear in normal mode, which was nice to see.
There’s not much else to Knight Terrors, to be honest. Its spooky pixels and Ghosts n’ Goblins aesthetic feels perfect for a near-Halloween release and serves as a great to-go experience. It’s also incredibly affordable at $2.99 USD, has a ton of replay value thanks to unlockable modes, power-ups, and procedural generation, and it’s just a lot of fun to pick up and play whenever I have a few minutes. Sometimes those minutes turn into an hour. Sometimes more.
So, where’s the final score? There isn’t one. I spent a lot of time conveying my opinion in the above text, and I hope that’s worth more to you than some arbitrary number or a sequence of shaded-in star shapes. Basically, I’m not a fan of scores so I no longer use them. Read the review and judge for yourself if the game is worth your time and money. I trust in your ability to make the right decision!
Full disclosure: This review was done using a Nintendo Switch key provided by the game’s publisher, Nicalis. While I’m sometimes given games to critique, I pride myself on providing an unbiased review to fellow consumers, along with constructive feedback to hard working developers and publishers. Whether or not I pay for a game is irrelevant.