Star Knight: A strong platformer with a fun but steep difficulty curve

Platformers are practically as old as video games themselves and while some of my favorite games in history have been in the platformer genre, mobile touchscreens have often fallen flat in delivering a proper experience. Star Knight is a pleasant exception as the game accepts the limitations of the mobile gaming experience and tweaks the gameplay to overcome most of the pesky control problems.

Gameplay

The slower pace of play makes all the difference

The reason I say platformers are a hard sell on the mobile stage is because most platformers are pretty quick, and with the limits in responsiveness of touchscreens controls, platformers can easily become frustrating. Star Knight solves most of these problems by slowing it all down.

The pace of the gameplay is probably best described as "dreamy", which is to say it's slower than your average platformer, but not slow to the point of boredom. By taking this approach, Star Knight manages to make the controls feel much more fluid than your average mobile platformer.

The controls beg for a bigger screen and still have their limits

While jumping from place-to-place and defeating enemies throughout the game, I couldn't help but feel that the attack button and jump button were too close together and I would often hit jump when I meant to hit attack and vice versa.

The good news is Star Knight lets you customize where your controls are on the screen, meaning you can put some extra space between those close together buttons. However, I as I was playing on my iPhone 7, I felt the screen was a little too small to accommodate a comfortable distance without interfering with my ability to see my surroundings. I decided to give Star Knight a try on my iPhone 6S Plus and found the experience far more enjoyable with the extra room.

Be prepared to die

Star Knight is challenging and you will die. The first several levels ease you into the gameplay and the environments at a pretty normal pace, but a little over halfway into the first area the game's difficulty curve takes a steep turn upward and doesn't stop.

A combination of tricky obstacles, enemies with lots of health, and the relatively low damage your character does all contribute to Star Knight's overall challenge level. While I wish it was a tad easier to upgrade your weapon (because you desperately will need to pretty early on) every time you die it forces you to rethink your approach to the situation that killed you. Sometimes it's as simple as just adjusting where or when you jump and other times you need to use the obstacles to your advantage to help you defeat enemies or cross certain terrain. The fact that the game makes you think means you begin to realize each death is really a learning experience and it motivates you to keep trying.

Combat could be better

Boss battles are unique and fun, but the smaller enemies get a little stale

Combat is by far the biggest fault with Star Knight. The smaller enemies you fight in every level don't offer much of a challenge, but have a lot of health. This means you end up spending more time standing in one place mashing the attack button than you want. In the later levels, there's a little more variety in the types of enemies you face, but they often seem more like a task to dispatch.

The combat isn't all bad, the boss battles are quite entertaining and extremely challenging. It will take you a few times fighting each boss to figure out how to properly defeat them, and each one is significantly different, which provides a well-needed break from the staleness of the other combat.

Design

The fun art style is a fresh look

Vector art dominates Star Knight and looks good doing it. While the background often fades away after a few levels in any given area, the foreground characters and obstacles manage to pop out at you all while still blending in with the overall aesthetic.

Little changes go a long way. For example, when you equip a new sword, your character will change his look ever so slightly, which keeps you more engaged as you progress through the different worlds. Plus, the enemies (especially the area bosses) are unique enough to offer a fresh look every time you come across a new one.

A simple soundscape adds to the experience

The background music is less of a soundtrack and more of a soundscape. It's subtle and a little on the quiet side, but it really adds to the atmosphere Star Knight creates. I often forgot the background music was even playing and that's not a bad thing as it helped enforce the "dreamy" slower gameplay.

Overall assessment

Worth the 99 cents

Star Knight is a mobile platformer that does so many things right in an area where other iOS platformers have failed. The slower pace to the gameplay offers a good solution to the limitations that touchscreen controls provide and yet offers gameplay that is fluid and enjoyable. Combine all that with the fact that you get 60 levels and no ads, makes Star Knight well worth its $2.99 price tag.

What do you think of Star Knight?

Let me know what you think of Star Knight. Will give it a shot? Leave me a comment below!