Commodore User

Knight Games

Author: Mike Pattenden
Publisher: English
Machine: Commodore 64/128

Published in Commodore User #35

Knight Games

Just for a change a software company has ditched the rather tired scenario of the Orient. There's no ninjas or fighting warriors in this game. Just good old-fashioned men in chain-mail.

These are the days when men were men and Robin Hood wasn't a pin-up, when Ivanhoe wasn't an old TV programme and King Arthur wasn't a pomp rock epic by Rick Wakeman.

Knight Games takes you into that medieval world of chivalric competition. You can play the computer or a friend through eight combat/skill simulations from the Dark Ages.

Knight Games

For each challenge you control your fighter via the joystick. Just as with all these games, your joystick positions represent a variety of movements, such as downward sweeps and roundhouse swings. These all correspond to positions on the stick when the Fire button isn't depressed. Stab the button and your character will either shift left and right or go into defensive positions.

There are eight knightly sports to cavort around at, each of which I'm sorry to say loads separately. What's more, you have to get some preliminary code into the machine first, which means you can't just run through the games on side two if they prove to be your favourites. Each load takes a couple of minutes, so it's just a question of keeping your patience and remembering your knight's code: don't kick the joystick around the house in frustration.

So once you get into the tape what noble arts can a would-be Ivanhoe besport at?

  1. Swordfight
    This is the first of two swordfights you face. Two man materialise on the screen and you jump straight for each other with each blow sounded on the computer with a sort of xylophonic plink. That's not as bad as it sounds, turn the courtly music down for a while to get the full effect.
  2. Quarterstaff
    This is one of those myth-like fights that Robin and Little John were supposed to have when they met. Stand on a tree across a river and beat hell out of each other with great big sticks. A disappointment here is that the loser doesn't go straight into the river.
  3. Archery
    Not a million miles away from the idea behind the archery option in Hypersports. Instead of aiming at a stable target, the target actually scrolls past and you have to allow for deflection. This is made harder by the fact that your target cursor shifts all over the place as if your archer had a bad case of the DTs. The targets by the way are wooden horses.
  4. Ball and Chain
    Pretty wicked stuff this. The two knights materialise inside the castle and steam straight into each other, swinging their weapons.
  5. Pikestaff
    Here you and your opponent face each other armed with long pikestaffs - axes with long handles and spears on the top in case you didn't know.
  6. Swordfight 2
    Takes you onto the second side and onto a different location. You fight with huge broadswords in a field - probably in case you hurt someone. This is particularly disappointing and reminiscent of the two similar skating options in Winter Games. You wonder if they're there because the programmer ran out of code or ideas.
  7. Crossbow
    Similar theme to archery, but it's different enough to present a new challenge. Here your targets swing around on trees, making the job of timing that wandering target cursor [some text missing]
  8. Axeman
    This concludes your Arthurian efforts. Two men lay in to each other with that by now familiar clanging of metal striking armour.
Knight Games

Knight Games is certainly fun, but as the descriptions demonstrate it also sounds a bit samey. The fighting scenarios all take place against different backgrounds and with different weapons. That wouldn't be so bad if the gameplay was precise.

The major problem is really that you never quite feel fully in control of your characters. In Fish you can wait for your opponent to move and adjust your attack/defence accordingly. Here you tend to find yourself blindly thrashing the stick in the hope your opponent will run out of energy before you do.

That's a shame because I like the approach. Programmer Jon Williams has done a beautiful job on the graphics as well. The backdrops are varied and colourful, the movement on the largish characters is smooth and co-ordinarted. Blows seem to rain in all directions, although I had problems with defensive moves.

In all, Knight Games is a worthy addition to the beat-'em-ups, it's just not up there at the top. A pity because I feel it could have been with a few adjustments and a bit more imagination. Did English and Jon consider the possibility of a joust for example? That would have been brilliant.

Mike Pattenden

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