Party games aren’t really that easy a sell right now, especially couch party games. I mean, with COVID-19, and the protesting, it’s not exactly the time to get together with friends and make and break friendships via video game. But life must go on eventually, and when it does, you might want to reconnect with friends with a rousing couch versus experience.
Knight Squad is a game that released almost five years ago on PC. It’s a top-down multiplayer brawler/party game. Like many other studios have done, developer Chainawesome Games decided to tap into the substantial Switch user base with their 2015 Knight Squad. And it’s a great fit—the Nintendo Switch is a powerhouse for indie games, and it’s a great system for couch multiplayer and co-op games. Naturally a game like Knight Squad would be a great fit for it, but with so many other party games to choose from, is this the one that is worthy of your (and your group’s) time?
The short answer is: “eh.” The long answer is: “ehhhh, maybe.” I’ll tell you why that is in a moment, but I have a major caveat for this review: this is a party game, that due to COVID-19 and sheltering an immunocompromised family member, I didn’t get to play this with too much of a party. But hey, with bots, that’s no big deal, right? Bot modes mean that you can play the game, and get the feel of it, even while playing against bots. But when I tried to start a bot game, I found absolutely no way to join it. The only thing I could do is watch the bots play the various game modes. I feel crazy, but I tried everything to join. Strange, as if it was meant to be a spectator only mode, why did they include the options for difficulty. So with no bot play, I was relegated to playing with my longtime co-op partner—my wife.
Now, I can’t say that I had the full multiplayer experience doing that. Knight Squad doesn’t only have to be played in a multiplayer mode—there are several challenge levels, with enemies and bosses that remind me of those found in Legend of Zelda. They’re pretty darn challenging—but there’s a leaderboard, so you can try for a high score. Personally, I was struggling just to complete them at all. But if you do play Knight Squad as a full multiplayer party game—as its intended—then there’s a lot of meat on these bones.
As far as I can tell, there are a whopping twelve game modes—and each has a unique take on the top-down multiplayer action game. I’m not going to detail each and every game mode, but there are highlights—like Juggernaut, which plops a minigun in the middle of the arena. Whoever can get to it first becomes the Juggernaut, and must be defeated–no small task with a hail of bullets coming at you. Jail Break is about rescuing allies who are jailed after defeat. There are also the common capture the flag and domination game modes, but then there are even variations of these game modes with their own twists.
Despite all of the game modes, Knight Squad really comes down to pummeling your friends to death, either with swords, or items you pick up on the field of battle. Knight Squad proclaims proudly that it will test friendships, and I’m sure it would. The action is fast, and brutal. Death is merely a hit away in most cases, and those hits could come fast with a full eight player party. Some matches seem to end in moments, which is great for quick matches that let you get back into it without too much downtime. Knight Squad is also fast, and responsive. Unfortunately, it lacks a bit in presentation.
While Knight Squad has a lot going for it in terms of gameplay, it’s not that pretty to look at. Ironic, since it has a cohesive art style. The art for some of the different knights you can choose is great—whimsical, funny, and full of personality. The rest of Knight Squad is ugly, and feels like it’s “good enough.” The top-down perspective does it no favors visually—each arena looks like something from a bygone era, or like from a mobile game. Each of the individual textures look fine, just put together it doesn’t really work. It just looks flat, and unappealing. To top it all off, there’s an obnoxious announcer that sounds like a generic Mortal Kombat mockery that makes the whole thing seem a little like it’s taking itself too seriously.
Knight Squad had an uphill battle on the Switch in terms of differentiating itself from the pack. It already has something going for it, since it’s a party game—and those are usually great for a few evenings of laughs. And that’s what Knight Squad might give you, if you get past the ugly presentation, that is. Unfortunately, it’s not much more than that—but hey, it doesn’t try to be.
Knight Squad is out today on Nintendo Switch, and also available on Windows.
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