Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sleepless Knight



I remember quite enjoying Sleepless Knight the first time I played it. Oh yes, I do like more than four games on the internet, and Sleepless Knight (or more accurately, Sleepless Knight Part 1 - a sequel has been released that's actually a big improvement) was one of them. Sure, it was challenging and at times frustrating, but that was OK, because it just made me more determined to complete the game.



You play Knight Lucy, the GI Jane of Medieval England except with less coarse language and more acting talent. It's February 14th and you have received a Valentine's Day card!

(Don't worry, there's violence soon.)



Turns out it's not a Valentine's card after all, but a request for help from the kidnapped princess. Talk about getting a girl's hopes up. Still, that is really nice scented pink notepaper.



Lucy decides to go and do what all knights in platform games do - go off alone to fight a horde of evil monsters.

So, lesbian knight goes off to save distressed but flirtatious princess - got that? Good. Unfortunately I don't know where the "sleepless" part comes in. Sure, it was a nice play on words, but it doesn't make a whole lot of sense in the context of the game.



What follows is your standard platform adventure game, as you guide Lucy through tunnels and caverns in search of the princess. Along the way you battle such fierce creatures as rats, bats and... that's it. The question of why I wasn't fighting kidnappers gets answered in the final cutscene and in the sequel, but at the time I was feeling a little confused.



The controls are as simple as Ted Nugent's politics (man, there's an obscure reference.) Cursor keys to move left and right, A button to jump and S button to attack. Keep tapping S for combos, culminating in this cool Final Fantasy-style energy blast.



The Space button pauses the game and brings up the shop menu, from which you can make purchases using the gold coins you collect through the game. Aside from the armour, which increases your health, these upgrades don't seem to do much, other than look cool. But hey, at least you look really cool.



Gotta say, Lucy - I love the Xena get-up. But this screenshot provides a good example of a major flaw in Sleepless Knight; there are times when you need to drop down to a lower level, but it's impossible to see where you're going until it's too late. Lucy may have sartorial style, but apparently they don't teach you how to look down at Knight School.



The game has its fair share of puzzles, usually just locating buttons to unlock doors. The two are usually some distance from each other, so you then need to high tail it back to the door before the lock resets and you have go through the process all over again. Suffice to say, this is not one of Sleepless Knight's better qualities.



The bats pissed me off to no end. At least the rats were manageable; these flying fuckers swooped in, took away some of my health, and swooped back out again before I had a chance to do anything. The bats also have an annoying tendency to knock you off ledges if you're close to the edge of one, which sucks in the situation above since that's a moving ledge and there are spikes underneath it. The best strategy I found was to jump up and down and time it so I could stab at the bats until they died. And surely bats can't take as many hits as these sons of bitches did?



At times I felt like the developer was just being spiteful, like here, when you have to jump from one spring to the next to complete the level. Underneath you are spikes, covered only by conveyor belts that will send you flying off as soon as you land on them. It's designed with the sole intention of robbing you of half your health - there is no other explanation.



Chapter 2, The Secret Cave, doesn't seek to make things any easier. Here we are again at another blind jump. Now, of course, the idea is to follow the coins down so you land in the correct spot. But what if you don't follow them down? What if you time the jump wrong?



But at least you only have a rat to deal with in the first pit. Right after it, there's a pit of spikes. That's right - you have to make a blind jump into a pit of spikes and land directly on this spring. It's the sort of ridiculous challenge that only hardcore gamers and vindictive software developers enjoy.

You better make sure you land exactly on the spring, too. I lost count of the number of times I fell through a spring, all because I didn't hit the absolute middle.

The entire Cave section is a hotbed of frustrating puzzles, hidden enemies and death after death after death. The only reason I even made it to the third chapter, The Foothills, was because of some glitch in the game that sent me there after going through an incongruous door in the Secret Cave (and if the cave is so secret, why are there doors? Why are there doors in a cave in the first place?



Single block platforms. I've already given my opinion of single block platforms in a previous review, so I won't waste time explaining my utter contempt for them. But what annoys me more are single block platforms that disappear when you walk on them.

I mean... God damn it, cut me some slack here!

The ultimate kick in the balls is when you die, or worse, get caught in some glitch and have to restart the level.



All the upgrades you worked so hard to obtain are gone. All of them. There's nothing left. Even the number of beasts you've killed goes back down to zero. So having hacked and slashed and energy blasted your way this far, you now have to go all the way back to a wooden sword and shield. Now, that, my friends, is what we call "bullshit."

The good news is, Sleepless Knight 2 rectifies most, though not all, of these problems. At the very least, it doesn't take all of your upgrades when you die. May advice, if you must play one of these games, is to go with the sequel. You won't really be missing much if you bypass Sleepless Knight Part 1.

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