It’s another strong week in the indie scene, as we take a look at four new and upcoming releases for various platforms. It’s an especially interesting week if you enjoy knights as your protagonist and retro platforming as your genre of choice. Read on to find out about Horned Knight, Sir Lovelot, Castle Kong and Pachi Pachi on a Roll.
If Super Mario Bros on the NES and Shovel Knight had a baby, then it would probably look a bit like 2Awesome Studios’ latest retro platformer, which is out this week on PCs as well as all major consoles. With a hero not too unlike Yacht Club’s massive indie success story and visuals that come straight from Nintendo’s 8-bit NES era, there’s immediate retro appeal here.
Released at a budget price point, Horned Knight showcases a range of familiar concepts as an affordable option for those looking for an extra fit of something familiar. It’s got all the modern conveniences of double jumping and dashing in mid air, and combined that with its 8-bit style in what is a challenging platformer that features 32 levels and includes several boss fights.
Designed as a challenging platformer (with all the spikes, fireballs and traps you’d expect to come with that), Horned Knight also features an easier difficulty setting for those not looking for a hardcore challenge and just want to get to the end of their playthrough first. The trophy list doesn’t require you to play in hard mode either, so that’s good news for those looking for an easy platinum trophy to add to their list.
At first glance, Sir Lovelot has a lot in common with Horned Knight, as you take control of a hero knight and get around traps and enemies in a retro setting. This one has a more modern aesthetic though, with often lush details and a zoomed out point of view. It’s still a very challenging game, but this one is more Super Meat Boy than Super Mario Brothers.
Your quest is to save your beloved princess over the course of 40 levels, which gradually become more challenging. Once you tackle the last few, you can also go back and try to pick up the secrets that many of the levels contain. This isn’t needed for the trophy list, but it does offer a bit of replay value in what is already a budget-priced game, which is always nice.
The game is coming out for all major consoles soon, and while a lot of console owners are waiting for Super Meat Boy Forever this is a nice little diversion to kill some time with. The controls and performance are both solid (we tested on a PS4 Pro, but there is also a native PS5 version) thanks to the solid porting work by Sometimes You, so if you’re into challenging platformers in the SMB vein, this is what you’ll want to spend a few hours with.
Before side-scrolling platformers came to home computers and consoles, a lot of games in the platforming genre were inspired by arcade games where the action took place on a single screen. Bubble Bobble is a great example, but few are more iconic than the original Donkey Kong arcade game – a game that still has an active high score chasing community.
If you’re interested in that then you’ll probably enjoy our look at the first ever Kong Off tournament from almost ten years ago, but it’s something that has also inspired developer/publishers of Castle Kong, which is out now for the Switch. Without using Mario or Donkey Kong (for obvious reasons), Drowning Monkeys Games has crafted a clear homage to the classic Nintendo arcade game – right down to the fact that there’s a kill screen after 22 levels, there are four different stage types and you have a finite number of levels.
The kill screen references aren’t by accident either – the documentary King of Kong was another clear inspiration for the developers, with one trophy even being dubbed “There’s a kill screen coming up” – a famous line from the documentary. And if you fancy getting competitive yourself, then there are cash prizes up for grabs as well for reaching a high enough spot on the high score list. More on that can be found here.
It’s worth pointing out that Castle Kong isn’t a Donkey Kong clone, despite the obvious nods to the original game. In addition to its own hero and protagonist (a knight, of course) and villain, it also features original level designs and its own visual style. Retro arcade enthusiasts will definitely want to check this one out.
Pachi Pachi on a Roll
Every now and then, you come across a bit of a curiosity – Pachi Pachi on a Roll is such a game. Developed and published by Hidden Trap, it arrived on the Switch first and is now jumping over to (or rather dropping into) other platforms as well, including the PlayStation 4, which we used to play it.
A staple of Japanese arcades as well as western game shows, the game pachinko is all about dropping a coin or marble from the top of a scene and seeing where it ends up at the bottom, after bouncing off several obstacles along the way to make its path very unpredictable and thus making it a largely luck-based affair.
Pachi Pachi on a Roll looks like Peggle on the surface, but it very much follows the pachinko formula in that releasing your ball from a moving launcher feels like a shot in the dark – something you can verify by playing a level with your eyes closed and seeing if you did any worse. Chances are, you’ll break your high score within one or two attempts unless you’ve already been playing a lot.
To add to its niche appeal, Pachi Pachi on a Roll also features busty anime girls that are barely dressed if you do well with your ball drops, but this one is clearly aimed at a particular audience – one that doesn’t have a lot to choose from in the PlayStation library so they might welcome this with open arms. For others, Peggle is a far superior choice as a game.