Developer: Crescent Moon Games
Size: 28 MB
Platform: iPhone & iPad
Nintendo’s Zelda series celebrates its 35th birthday in 2021, and few video game franchises can claim to have had quite such an influence on the medium.
Knightin’+ wears that influence even more openly than most. While it eschews Zelda’s free–roaming exploration, it closely mimics the puzzle-strewn dungeons and top-down action-RPG combat of 90s Zelda titles A Link to the Past and Link’s Awakening.
Each of its four themed dungeons consists of several floors made up of interconnected single-screen challenges. These are typically filled with enemies to be vanquished, sometimes even as a requirement for progression. Others contain block-pushing or switch-flicking puzzles, which can really tax your noggin, or a challenging boss with attack patterns that must be studied.
While these dungeons never quite approach the ingenuity or variety of their inspiration – Knightin’+ was made by a one-man team, let’s not forget – they evoke the spirit of Nintendo’s 16-bit and 8-bit adventures quite succinctly.
We do wish it felt a little sharper to play on an iPhone, though. Despite its compact dimensions, this is actually a PC port, and the move to virtual controls hasn’t been wholly successful. Things are a little smoother on an iPad’s relatively giant screen.
Your little blue knight’s movement feels somewhat sluggish and imprecise, and things like lining up to attack an opponent at just the right angle to avoid a counter-punch, or raising your shield in time to block an automated turret’s attack, can be very hit and miss. Especially on one of Apple’s smaller devices like the iPhone 12 mini or iPhone SE 2020.
It’s a shame there’s no Bluetooth controller support at the time of writing. But even if there was, Knightin’s ponderous touchscreen controls would still be an issue. It’s how most people will play it, after all.
Any frustration with Knightin’s demanding natures – and some of its combinations of enemies can be rather tricky to face, regardless of control issues – is diminished by a generous checkpointing system, which can be initiated by passing through a glowing floor tile.
Another nice frustration–mitigating touch is the ability to buy essential keys from one of the shop keepers that populates each floor. Sure, you could risk life and limb to reach the necessary chest, and it’ll undoubtedly bring about more satisfaction should you solve the accompanying puzzle. But having an alternative method is great for the easily dissuaded and the time–poor.
And really, that’s where Knightin’+ succeeds. It might not be Zelda, but it’s a fine approximation that makes a lot more sense for distracted iPhone gamers.