I’ve never been a big mobile game player, but I ended up working in a mobile games company (opinions are my own etc), so I’ve been trying to expose myself to more games in this market and attempt to gain an ever-better understanding of them. One of the ways I’ve been doing that is in trying out new games, seeing what they do wrong and right, and try to draw conclusions from them that I can use in the future to make our games better. One of the resources I’ve been using for this is TouchArcade (not sponsored), and their columns listing the new iOS games of the week.
This resulted in me playing a lot more new games during my daily bus rides, but I also feel the need to discuss them somewhere and keep a log of my thoughts instead of just internalising them. So, Commuting Cognition. These will be brief, bus-ride-long thoughts on these games, and should be seen less as reviews and more as first impressions. They also may not be daily, depending on how full the bus is that day.
Knights Fall is a bit hard to describe. It’s kinda like a tower defence game mixed with pinball. You control the angle of a launcher that is continually firing soldiers like balls into the stage, wherein they bump into enemies and terrain to deal damage to them.
As silly as it sounds, this is actually a really cool mechanic. At times the gameplay feels very limited, as you’re just looking at the launcher firing soldiers, but they work around this in several ways.
Firstly, you can speed up the process by holding down the launch button, which rapidly launches more of the soldiers *and* makes them stronger, which is necessary to break through condensed hordes of enemies; soldiers are limited, however, acting in a similar way to a timer, so you’re effectively spending time as a resource, which i always find neat.
Secondly, some enemies defend themselves against the soldiers. The first boss has a flamethrower, that destroys soldiers before they can hit it, and regularly spins around, requiring you to continuously change the angle to get around its defences. It kinda plays like a shooter in this sense.
Finally, and most impressively for me, the boards change dynamically as you interact with the environment. At one point you’re firing soldiers at a tree, which eventually falls down and changes the trajectory your soldiers can go in, forcing you to adapt your angle to the new paths.
Even with all that, it often still feels like the game is mostly playing itself, and i think the main cause of that is the overall fast pace of the actions. If everything was a little slower and gave you more time to react to things, they could’ve afforded to make enemies smaller, or paths narrower, in order to force you to change the angle more often.
There’s also no feedback to the angle changing other than waiting for the next soldier to be launched; this could’ve been easily solved by adding a visual guideline, which admittedly could’ve made the game a little easier, but the levels could’ve been designed around it and i feel that the feedback gain would’ve been important.
I don’t often mention the overall aesthetic unless it impacts the gameplay in a significant way, and here i kinda feel that it does. The game is skinned as a super serious Game of War-type thing, and then it launches dozens of soldiers curled up in balls to bump against orcs or whatever. It looks ridiculous. Maybe that was the intent, but it’s super jarring to go from such silly gameplay to straight-faced cutscenes, which become impossible to take seriously. I feel this mechanic would’ve worked much better if it was paired with a silly cartoon aesthetic, Peggle style.