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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Review: Knights in Shining Armor (PC)

Knights in Shining Armor (KISA for short), by developer Fluff Entertainment, follows young Prince Rupert as he travels abroad to find a princess to wed. It's meant to be part one of a new ongoing adventure series - but if that's to be, then this kingdom might just need a coup.

Indie developers keep the Point & Click genre alive

I love old school adventure games. In fact, I grew up on titles like Maniac Mansion, The Dig, Monkey Island, and Full Throttle - and those are just a few of my favorites from the glory days of Point & Click but you get the idea. It's an amazing genre for telling super detailed stories and is woefully underrepresented in today's industry. So when I saw Knights in Shining Armor, those classics were the first things that jumped into my noggin. In hindsight, that was maybe a little too grandiose of a thought.

Now don't get me wrong, KISA is a decent adventure game. The main problem here is that it has little to none of the usual conventions of the genre that would make it a really effective adventure game. Most of this amazingly short adventure is spent listening to conversations instead solving puzzles. Which is an oddity since, while interactions with NPC's are important in this type of game, puzzle solving is just as necessary (if not more so) and KISA has pretty much nuttin' in that realm save one sliding block type deal. Also, when I say “listening to conversations” I mean just that - you're really not interacting and choosing complex conversation branches at all. You're pretty much just listening to people blather on.

My that's a purposeful stride


So, it's not your standard adventure, but aside from all that there is some good stuff in here that is legitimately enjoyable.

The story has the right roots and seems like it could evolve into a nice little tale if given some time. The darkly comic storyline has Prince Rupert, in the wake of a long and brutal war, venturing into the territory of his kingdom's former enemy in order to take its princess as his bride. The problem is that when he gets there he offends his guide (he's a bit of a jerk) and then has no clue where it is he's supposed to go. From there he fumbles his way through conversations with the barkeep and a female room renter.

It's actually an enjoyable intro, filled with dry wit and some overall decent writing. It pretty much carries through the entirety of the game too (as short as it is... and it is), which is really good news considering that the rest of the title's makeup leaves something to be desired.

Graphics wise, KISA doesn't look bad, it just looks... off. The characters are three dimensional, and they're a little blah. They have no facial expressions of any kind and their mouths don't move at all while they talk. If we were talking about two dimensional sprites, it may not be an issue, but here it most definitely is.

Hm, which door should I wander into next?


Point & click adventure games historically look and play great as sprite based titles. Maybe it's my LucasArts upbringing coming through, but give me Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis' brightly colored artwork over Prince Rupert and Co. any day of the week. I think it would have been a flatly better choice to stick to 2D... no pun intended (yeah right - ed).

It doesn't help any to see these blahs walking around on some pretty nice looking backdrops either. There's  only one real location, that being the inn, but all the area's therein are well done and quite attractive. The main hall at the inn is particularly nice with some great artwork. You know, some nice 2D animated sprites would have looked really nice in there... oh well.

And much like the graphics, the sounds of KISA are inconsistent to say the least. On the one hand, the soundtrack is light, pleasant, and doesn't get in the way- and Prince Rupert actually sounds good and is voiced well. Some of his lines and smarmy reactions make up the best parts of the game. But on the other hand, the secondary character's voices only range from 'okay' to 'oh boy'. The worst being the young lady that you meet in the bar who sounds like the actress recorded her lines as a voice memo while standing ten feet from the recorder then emailed it in to the studio. Less of that for the next installment please.

So is KISA worth your time at all? I did a lot of complaining in the space above so I should probably say (and you would probably guess) 'hmm', but there is something here with potential. It's painful to see such a good premise go to waste but it's very hard to excuse so much that's in the negative here. In the end, this is really only for genre diehards who are desperate for a little pointing and clicking. But I am anxious to see if there's more to this adventure in future installments and if anything is changed or fixed up for the longer quest to come. As it is, maybe Rupert should have just stayed home.

- Jason M


Review: Knights in Shining Armor (PC)
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