We first learned about Gryphon Knight Epic about a year ago, when we played an early alpha version and wrote a preview on this game by Brazilian indie developer Cyber Rhino Studios. Twelve months and several layers of polish later and the full game is ready for release – and review.
Our preview back then pointed out how the game was clearly inspired by the arcade shooters of the late eighties and early nineties, and this definitely hasn’t changed. If you were around and playing videogames at that time, there’s a good chance you’ve played shoot ’em up games like R-Type or Gradius at some point. It didn’t matter if you had a console system or home computer back then, because a game like R-Type was released on everything from the Commodore 64 and Atari ST to Sega’s Master System and the Nintendo Game Boy.
This illustrates how popular the shoot ’em up genre was back in the day, and side-scrolling 2D shooters were the norm (3D wasn’t really around, and vertical scrollers like Xenon were an exception). Gryphon Knight Epic was made for all those gamers who fondly remember those days, as well as those who were captivated by them years later. Its closest relative – thematically speaking – is perhaps Pegasus by Gremlin software, a game probably only known to gamers who owned an Atari ST or Amiga. In that game, you played a knight who rode on the back of a pegasus – a winged horse. In Gryphon Knight Epic – you guessed it – you ride on the back of a gryphon, a half-eagle, half-lion. Pegasus also featured platforming levels though, whereas Gryphon Knight Epic is purely a shooter.
The game is a great throwback to the classic shooters of an era that ended about 20 years ago, and its creators clearly love the genre. Features that tended to work well in the genre are all there, including a multitude of weapons in your arsenal, battles with screen-filling bosses and all sorts of power-ups. Gryphon Knight Epic is also a game that doesn’t over-complicate things, like many games these days tend to do – to varying results. Cyber Rhino Games has opted to keep the gameplay here fairly basic in nature, with easy to understand controls – just like it was back in the day.
The game isn’t overly difficult or long – the latter being something that was also the norm when most shooters were based on arcade games. The limited amount of difficulty makes the game accessible to newcomers and those whose skills have gotten a little rusty, but might not appeal to fans of “bullet hell” shooters. This seems like a conscious choice by the developer though, who also went with an art style that is cartoon-like and thus fitting with the accessible nature of the game. It’s a style that is somewhat similar to that seen in games like Metal Slug and the recent Tembo the Badass Elephant, though more pixelated and retro in nature.
Gryphon Knight Epic doesn’t break any new ground, but it never set out to do that. Instead, it’s a fun little throwback for gamers who fondly remember the shooters of old. We enjoyed it but probably won’t remember it twenty years from now. Check out the some of the gameplay videos – if they make you feel nostalgic, then you know you’ll enjoy this. If you crave cutting edge production values, then you probably didn’t even make it to the end of this review.