Muffin Knight: Takes the platforming crown
Angry Mob Games made their name with two Predator themed games which were as violent and gory as you would expect from the franchise. So it’s little wonder that they’d want to show their lighter side once in a while, and with its sense of humor and kid friendly graphics, Muffin Knight is that game. Muffin plays homage to the classic arcade platform games of old, like Snow Bros, Rodland, Rainbow Island and the like, from back in the days when platforming meant literally jumping on platforms suspended in the air. Muffin Knight successfully updates the genre with crisp and colorful 2.5d graphics and an overabundance of imagination.
The game opens with a cute introductory animation that subverts the standard hero’s journey setup with unexpected comedy. A boy finds a basket of muffins in the woods and somehow causes them to explode across a variety of differently styled levels. For this he is transformed in to a knight, and if he ever wants to regain his true form (why would he?), the boy must recover the missing muffins that we find out belong to a Fairy Godmother. That we first encounter her emerging from behind a bush, pulling up her underwear should give you a hint at where this game’s sense of comedy lies. With the almost completely nonsensical plot out of the way it’s straight in to the first of nine stages.
The game is simple enough to start with, dropped in to a single screen level that looks like a Zelda stage from Super Smash Bros., you must dodge or defeat the sheep (yes sheep) and the occasional giant goat (yes giant goat) than rain down from above which then proceed to bounce their way to the bottom of the screen where they tumble in to a fiery pit only to be reborn Phoenix like once more at the top in a more dangerous incandescent version that barrels through the stage until you put an end to it. So what about the muffins? Well they are the key to the the game’s standout feature and one that raises Muffin Knight above the average cutesy platformer. Every time you swipe one of the baked treats you transform in to one of several fantasy archetypes. One moment you’ll be a lightning bolt throwing Mage; grab a muffin and you’ll become a dual wielding archer with bi-lateral missile coverage then one carb heavy snack later you’ll don the robes of a spritely feline ninja. The more muffins you collect the more personas you unlock, making your next transformation even more of an unknown quantity. Even though each character doesn’t play massively differently, there’s enough variety that you’ll have to subtly switch up your play style on the go. Some have projectile attacks of different fire rates, trajectories and power, others are strong melee fighters and the unicorn poops rainbow bombs. PRO TIP: if you have the unicorn, defecate everywhere you can before changing character, your explosive rainbow drops remain after transformation—not a sentence I ever thought I’d ever have to write. Because no form lasts more than a few seconds, the pace of the game remains brisk with zero down time. The sheer number of unlockable characters (eighteen in total, although it seems like more) demonstrates just how much work has gone in to this game, with each potentially being the star of its own spin off game. I especially like the Cyclops who shoots out a black hole vortex that sucks the surrounding monsters in. In fact I could just endlessly talk about all the different forms you take, from the Pumpkin with his detachable head to the Zombie that vomits so hard he flies backwards, but half the fun of the game is discovering just who you’re going to add to your roster next.
There are also light RPG elements where XP, gained by slaying the broad menagerie of monsters or collecting muffins, can be spent on upgrading the characters and giving you access to extra attacks and most important, if you want to go for high scores, extra lives which changes the game from being an unforgiving one hit and you’re out affair, to a more enjoyable experience.
The stages are just as detailed as the characters, displaying elements of visual wit and well thought out design. They never become overwhelmingly complicated but do throw in a few surprises every now and then including eventually a Boss encounter. By the time you get to the Beanstalk you’ll have crossed all the standard ice, fire, Halloween stages you’d expect.
Traditional 2d platforming controls have always been hard to replicate on touchscreen devices, hence the proliferation of endless runners which do away with such bourgeois gambits as actual control over your character. There’s no denying that Muffin Knight is better played on a joypad or even a keyboard, but Muffin Knight manages better than most, with well place buttons and fluid character movement.
I actually preferred the game on tablet as the controls were bigger making the entire experience that much easier to play. It’s too often possible to press the wrong button with smaller screens. The larger screen also allows toy to appreciate the excellent character design.
Muffin Knight also offers cross platform multi-player modes, either co-op or competitive. Although it’s certainly a welcome addition, I didn’t think they brought anything particularly new to the game. I only had a limited time with this feature any way, as it was very rare that I even managed to connect to another player.
The most important thing about this game though is the fact that it’s just sheer fun. The appealing art style and the perfectly balanced gameplay, coupled with the flawless sense of progression thorough the unlockable content all adds up to one of the most enjoyable times I’ve had with a game. Which is why Muffin Knight is my first five-woof rated game on Gamewoof.