Every once in a while, I like to take a step back from the behemoth beast that is the games industry in order to look at the big picture. While AAA games reign ever-surpreme due to millions of dollars in funding and lavish PR teams, there’s a small corner — a growing corner — of the market that’s just waiting to be explored. Knightmare Tower floats at the center of that corner.
If you were to imagine a small flash game and a grandiose indie had a wild little ass-kicking child, Knightmare Tower would be it. It’s a hack-and-slash Doodle Jump meets Mario heroics, and it’s certainly the most fun you’ll ever have playing a video game.
Originally released as a browser game, and subsequently released on iOS and Android devices, Knightmare Tower has been a pretty sizable fish in the indie pond. Now, developer Juicy Beast Studio has brought the madness to Steam, and it’s quite possibly the best installment of the game yet.
The game’s premise is simple: there are princess that need savin’, and you’re the knight that’s gonna do it. All ten damsels in distress are the daughters of the King — yeah, all of them — and he’s kindly asked you to traverse the ominous tower to get them all back. Did I mention the tower is filled to the brim with ridiculously awesome monsters?
Knightmare Tower falls into the category of easy to learn, difficult to master. The game requires only a handful of controls be used, but it demands a hefty length of practice if you intend to save every last princess. You start the game at the bottom of the tower, and slowly ascend to the top through a series of boosts, all while slaying whatever may be lurking ahead of you. If you fail to gain speed, or simply die from too much damage, you fail — having to start all the way at the bottom of the tower.
The control mechanics are rather simple, allowing players of all ages and skill strengths to comfortably play. Left and right arrows control your horizontal movement, while the down arrow controls your attack; your movement is restricted to the horizontal axis unless you choose to strike. By striking and slaying monsters, you gain a speed boosts which momentarily allows you to carry on. Sling together some combo moves, and you’ll be allowed a bigger boost.
One of my favorite little features of Knightmare Tower is the rocket. At the bottom of the tower, you’re launched upwards on the rocket, thus beginning your heroic journey. A meter on the left measures just how strong a blast your rocket will have, and it’s up to you to hit it at the optimal time. The rocket also serves as a saving mechanism. If, while attacking, you miss your target, you’ll fall offscreen, only to valiantly ride the rocket back into battle. But beware — you’ll have to regain the speed you lost if you plan on making it to your princess.
Knightmare Tower is also remarkably beautiful. The cartoony atmosphere of the entire game is extremely becoming, and a perfect fit for the genre. From fiendishly cute animation and seamless looping to a killer soundtrack — composed by the same team responsible for Dust: An Elysian Tale‘s score — this game puts addiction into an entirely new context.
Even the HUD is great. It’s in no way invasive — only a minimalistic look at exactly what you need to know: health, speed, distance, and combo meter. It’s also equipped with a handy little counter that keeps track of all the monsters you’re so expertly slaying.
Of course, the best part of Knightmare Tower isn’t the graphics or the gameplay, but the fact that there are no micro-transactions whatsoever. The upgrade store works completely on in-game gold earned through completing challenges, killing monsters, and pretty much just sinking time into the game. After all, it’s the upgrades themselves that make games of this nature so high in replayability, and Knightmare Tower nails it.
You have the option of upgrading specs in three different categories: armory, accessories, and potions. Play through the game enough — and believe me you’ll need to — and it’s almost a breeze acquiring the gold you need for each upgrade. It’s a time consuming venture, but worth it.
There’s also upgrades available upon the retrieval of each princess. After every rescue, you’ll unlock a pretty substantial perk that will help boost you to the next level of gameplay. Whether it’s potions, luck perks, or a weird battle horn that is quite possibly the coolest thing ever, you’ll be dying (literally) to save each princess.
Knightmare Tower was conceived as a simple browser game, but finally finds a true home on Steam. It’s an addicting ride (or flight, rather) that’s guaranteed to productively waste hours of your day. For $3.99, there’s not a whole lot out there that’s going to match the insane levels of fun Juicy Beast Studio has crafted. It’s a game that’s fully realized its potential as an action-based flash adventure. Whether you classify as core or casual, Knightmare Tower will have you saying “okay, maybe one more run.”