The key art for Bahnsen Knights.

Review: Bahnsen Knights (Nintendo Switch)

What is up with this weird cult?

8 mins read

What do tornadoes, a cult, and a man in a trunk have in common? You’ll be surprised. Bahnsen Knights is the third in LCB Game Studio’s Pixel Pulp series. The series takes pulp fiction, gives it a paranormal twist, and turns it into a video game. To date, it has been going chronologically. Well, kind of. Mothmen 1966 was set in 1966 (obviously). Varney Lake was set in both 1954 and 1981. And now, in Bahnsen Knights, it is 1986. The kind of paranormal activity is different in each title. Paranormal investigator and author Lou Hill is what ties them all together, but he’s rarely the main focus. This time, we’re following Agent Boulder.

Agent Boulder has infiltrated a cult called the Bahnsen Knights in an attempt to find the last undercover agent on the job, who is mysteriously missing. Toni, the cult leader, is known for giving magnetic speeches. He used to be a car salesman, which makes a lot of sense. Car salespeople need to sell themselves just as much as they do the actual vehicles; cult leaders need to sell themselves just as much as they do their values. And cars have everything to do with the cult, as they all drive Ford Sierras. Every. Single. Member.

Toni has lots of outlandish claims. At least, they seem that way on the surface. For example, he claims that the Devil was behind Dante, dictating the Divine Comedy to him over 500 years ago. Other cult members include Keith, Luca, Vincent, and Monique; they’re all creepy in their own ways, but Luca just seems unhinged. Toni is definitely still the scariest. Boulder never knows how to read him. And neither do I.'s Discord banner. You click on it to be taken to the Website's Discord server

Tornadoes have become a major issue for the county. Toni says this is because Hell is above, not below. The Bahnsen Knights basically appeared when the tornadoes started… that can’t be coincidence, can it? The group performs route exorcisms. Not, like, traveling around doing human exorcisms. More like… exorcisms while driving? I don’t want to spoil it all. It is weird and not something I ever would have come up with, and I really like that kind of creativity the is the heartbeat of the Pixel Pulp games.

Since Boulder is undercover, he does need to check in with his colleagues from time to time. But he can’t get caught, which leads to a clever plan. Boulder communicates with his handler via holy cards left alongside evidence at a fake grave site. The graves bear the names of Boulder’s wife and child, who are very much alive but them being dead is a good cover story for why he’s so reckless. You have to sort the evidence based on what card it belongs with. One card is for Toni’s acquaintances, one is for accounting, and one is for forged and illegally obtained documents. It’s not terribly difficult to sort the evidence, which comes from various places as the game progresses.

At its heart, Bahnsen Knights is a visual novel. It’s reading a lot of conversation and making snap decisions. The game is divided into relatively short episodes, and shouldn’t take more than two or three hours to complete (probably closer to two when you’re not stopping to make notes all the time). Everything is done via the little text panel at the bottom – even things like playing cards and driving.

For the first time in the Pixel Pulp series, characters will have a relationship bar shown. This demonstrates their feelings towards Boulder. If they completely trust him, it leans left. If he’s sus, it leans right. It’s helpful to know how much you can possibly push a person before they’ll lose it on you.

Each Pixel Pulp title features a different solitaire card game. Every one of them is difficult. The one in Bahnsen Knights is so complicated that I don’t think I’ll ever fully understand what it going on. It’s frustrating, but I’ve come to accept that sometimes my brain just refuses to absorb information. Solitaire isn’t the only mini-game here, there are also things like driving and darts. Each is just as difficult to successfully complete. The mini-games often have clunky controls, which doesn’t help anything. Sure, you can usually skip the mini-games, but there will be consequences.

It’s worth noting that it is possible to die. I died within five minutes. Oops. Luckily, it’s not too tragic. When you die, it brings you back to the beginning of whatever challenge you were attempting. So saving often is important (there are nine save slots) but it’s not a huge worry if you forget. During my first playthrough, I kept a save for the beginning of each chapter. It’s just helpful in case I veer too far off the path I’d like to be on.

A screenshot from Bahnsen Knights. A man is standing on stage in front of a crowd of people, holding a cross. Boulder states, "the son of a bitch knows how to talk."

The Pixel Pulp games all have a very similar retro look with a limited colour palette, but each game has its own colour combinations. So they all look the same, yet different. They are clearly part of the same series. Mothmen 1966 was blue/green, Varney Lake was blue/yellow, and Bahnsen Knights is my favourite: red/purple. The red and purple make Bahnsen Knights seem very regal – what is the leader of a cult if not cult royalty? All of the Pixel Pulps look great, but Bahnsen Knights definitely tops the list.

There are limited options available in the game: there is a language selection menu and sliders for message speed, auto delay, master volume, music volume, and effects volume. Unfortunately, there are no options for things like text size and style. This means the game is only accessible to those who can read its default text, which is a bit of a bummer.

I love the Pixel Pulp series due to the storytelling and art. So I definitely like the visual novel part. But I get so very frustrated with most of the mini-games. I’m in this weird place where I have to juggle which is more important to me, narrative or gameplay. And honestly, narrative will win out every single time. Bahnsen Knights is a curious, creepy celebration of the pulp fiction genre. I have really enjoyed seeing the developer grow over the three games in the Pixel Pulp series, and I cannot wait to see what it does next. I bet nobody will see it coming.

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Lindsay picked up an NES controller for the first time at the age of 6 and instantly fell in love. She began reviewing GBA games 20 years ago and quickly branched out from her Nintendo comfort zone. She has has developed a great love of life sims and FMV titles. For her, accessibility is one of the most important parts of any game (but she also really appreciates good UI).

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