Posted at 23:00 on 14th March 2009 - permalink

This is something that doesn’t happen enough these days: stumbling across a new, unheralded game and then not being able to stop playing it, for the rest of the afternoon, until it’s beaten. And then blogging about it to enthuse about how awesome it is.

The game in question is Knightfall, a new Flash-based puzzle game from Megadev, a Southampton-based casual games developer who were previously responsible for Guitar Geek. On the basis of their output so far, I would predict they’re destined for greatness, or at least a good run at the iPhone App Store, WiiWare, DSiWare, XBLA and PSN.

Knightfall presents a grid of 9 x 9 coloured tiles, three spaces on which are taken up by a knight, a door and a key. The player can click on groups of three or more like-coloured tiles to make them disappear, causing anything resting on them to fall in accordance with what we call ‘gravity’. The player can also rotate the board in 90 degree increments. The object of the game is to direct the knight to the key and then to the door. This task is complicated by monsters who will attack the knight if he gets too close (the triggering distance and directions depending on the type of monster), and which can only be safely dealt with by arranging for the knight to fall on them from above, pranging them with his lance. There’s a light smattering of RPG elements – the game awards gold and XP during play and lets the player buy equipment and item from a shop after every fifth level – but these boil down to providing more health points, and thereby allowing the player to get away with making more mistakes.

The game is clearly influenced by Mr. Driller, Puzzle Quest, Boulderdash and (visually) Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, while offering gameplay that is original and distinct from any of those. The randomly generated levels and the brutal amount of damage dished out by enemies (playing at normal difficulty) mean that careless play is rapidly rewarded with the Game Over screen. The main issue with the game as it stands is one of balance – the degree of randomness results in many levels ending in an unavoidable stalemate and having to be attempted repeatedly, and there are extremely few health powerups offered between shops. The final boss is no pushover either – it took me several dozen attempts to finally beat him. (I only had enough health to sustain one attack by that point, but it would have been unsportsmanlike – and tiresome – to replay the whole game in an attempt to stockpile more potions.)

The presentation is well above the typical standard for a Flash game (only marred by an ugly blurring effect when the board is rotated, but it’s barely noticable). The campaign mode is just long and challenging enough to give a sense of achievement without outstaying its welcome. I hope they’re considering an extended ‘premium’ version (either on PC or the other platforms I mentioned earlier), if only to give me an excuse to play it some more.

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