Knightmare Tower is a variation on the launcher-game genre by Canadian development company Juicy Beast, which made
Burrito Bison and
Burrito Bison Revenge. You can definitely see the evolution of both gaming and interface concepts from the Burrito Bison games but
Knightmare Tower is dissimilar enough that it feels fresh and fun and is incredibly addictive.
You play as a knight who has been tasked by the king to rescue his 10 daughters who have been kidnapped and locked up in a tower by an evil nemesis. As the knight launches himself up the tower to rescue the princesses he has to fight monsters and gain and retain enough speed to avoid falling down.
You control the knight's left and right movement with either the keyboard or mouse. The left mouse button or down key can be used to "dash", which causes the knight to do a downwards smash. (The dash is best used by timing it to hit an enemy or an elusive pickup.)
Both your speed-bonus meter and your speed will increase as you slice enemies and each enemy you split gives you speed boost points, based on its difficulty rating and your "extraction power" rating, which you can increase by purchasing upgrades in the shop that appears at the end of every launch attempt. Your maximum speed bonus, which constantly drops down when not being boosted by a hit, can also be increased in the store. The bonus number you've purchased is the maximum that the meter will reach, no matter how quickly you kill enemies.
It's important to keep your speed up because you can die in two ways: by losing all your lives or by losing so much speed that you are overcome by a rising well of lava that fills the tower from below, which I'm going to assume is magic lava conjured by the tower's keeper because it disappears after each launch and the knight is never permanently damaged by it. You won't die by falling off the bottom of the screen, which usually happens when you perform a dash and miss, as your rocket will miraculously appear and boost you upwards, but when this happens it slows you considerably and gives the lava a chance to get much closer.
The higher you go the more dangerous the enemies become, unsurprisingly, and soon you'll find yourself dodging spikes, fireballs, and death rays (among other things) so as not to lose your lives. If you do lose them all you will die (briefly), the launch attempt will end, and you will have to start all over again from the bottom of the tower.
The princesses are situated at various levels in the tower, which serve as milestones, and each princess you rescue by breaking through the ceiling (which is not unlike the doors that Burrito Bison has to face) gives you a gift. These include the chance of special items appearing while you are ascending the tower and access to extra powerups that you can buy in the store.
The store comprises three sections: Armory, Accessories, and Potions. Items in the armoury increase your number of lives, your sword strength (crucial for more difficult enemies), your movement and attack speeds, and the ability of the rocket (acceleration and speed). When bought, armoury items change the look of the knight and the rocket, which keeps the graphics fresh and interesting. Accessories help with speed, bonuses, and gold drops. Potions, once unlocked, are fantastically useful pickups that appear in the tower. As you earn more gold you can purchase additional abilities that will be added to the potions when you pick them up. The potions last for a limited time but allow you to accomplish quite a bit with their enhanced abilities, which include increasing sword strength, boosting movement and attack speeds, and granting invulnerability.
Other pickups include the gold drops, in the form of money bags of various denominations, extra lives, and bombs, which will cause any enemies on the screen to explode and are especially helpful when you're nearing the lava and could do with a quick boost from dead monsters.
As with Burrito Bison Revenge
, there are quests to be completed, too, although in this case you need to finish all of them to get to the end of the story mode - they are not optional. Many of the quests will complete themselves while you're busy focussing on other things, though a few will require some strategic play to complete. None are too difficult, however, but if you are struggling on something you can pay a fee in gold to skip it, although that's not really in the spirit of the game. By focussing your mind on a particular goal that requires certain skills the quests also help to train you and you'll find that you're a better player after having completed some of the more difficult ones.
Once you finish the story portion of the game Survival mode is unlocked, which grants you a never-ending tower in which to play, with much harder enemies and 30 more quests. Story mode, after this, seems ridiculously simple but it's fun to play through now and then just to remember how far you've come.
I have only two gripes: first, the design of the end boss (to say more would be a spoiler, so I won't), although the gameplay itself is varied and fun, and, second, some of the grammar in the game is incorrect, which is a surprise as the text is usually as polished as the visuals.
In fact, the visual design of the game is superb, from the quirky character designs to the visual cues, such as your distance from the lava even when you can't see it (so you know when to start panicking and slicing a little bit faster), enemies flashing when they are about to attack so you can time your dash, and notification icons in the store that instantly alert you to items you can afford to buy without you having to scour every section to find stuff. These store cues, in particular, are a usability consideration that's been around since Burrito Bison Revenge
and, although a very simple concept, they make a huge difference to the quality of the gameplay.
Other cues include a subtle change to the musical score's key when the lava gets close, which then switches back if you manage to gain some more speed, and health bars above more difficult enemies that no longer display as you upgrade your weapon and no longer need to hit them multiple times.
I am really fond of the Juicy Beast team because of these sort of seemingly minor considerations that are increasingly found in the company's games. The ideas improve with each new release and they really show that the team tests its games thoroughly and spends a lot of time thinking about what the player will be doing and what will help to make the player's experience more pleasant. Similarly, Juicy Beast is very skilled at taking a simple gaming concept and adding just enough variety that it doesn't get boring and too grindy. There's also always an offbeat sense of humour that's never offensive and often results in some surprises as you play through a game, which just makes the experience all the more endearing.
is another great interpretation of the launcher genre with great graphics, good skills progression, and an excellent replayability factor.