Taking the Arthurian characters of the Knights of the Round Table and embedding them in a Mega Man inspired 2D action platformer should be a delicious and nutritious recipe for video game success. Indeed, the developers of Fallen Knight were clearly intending to prepare a Michelin star quality meal. Sadly, the end result is far from being a culinary delight. To extend this cooking metaphor well past boiling point, Fallen Knight is the equivalent of eating egg and chips from Little Chef in 1992; messy, tasteless and distressingly moist.
The set-up for Fallen Knight is pleasantly expedient. Lancelot, the legendary warrior, and Galahad, deadly assassin, are on a mission to take down The Purge, a militant religious order hell bent on… and that’s probably all anyone will ever know of the Purge, as they instead opt to skip the poorly translated dialogue and get to the action instead.
Fallen Knight offers players two different game styles depending on whether they choose to play as Lancelot or Galahad. Opt for infidelity icon Lancelot and you’ll find a standard Mega Man style game. Take on five levels in any order, defeat a boss, and unlock new abilities. All before taking on a final ultimate showdown. Opt for Galahad and the game will have an additional roguelike element added. Galahad will be gifted a random selection of abilities at the start of each run, but death sends you back to the start, though you’ll have the option of purchasing and securing abilities to help you out on the next attempt.
Offering players the decision of how they like their 2D platformer done is certainly generous and, thanks to the play style of each protagonist varying significantly, isn’t an empty choice either. Lancelot has a parry and disarm ability – time the button input just right and the knight who likes to prance a lot will instantly take down any standard enemy or knock a big chunk of health off a boss. Meanwhile, nail the timing with Galahad and he’ll assassinate a chain of foes, looking cool and regaining health in the process.
Sadly both these abilities, and the entire game itself, are undermined by lethargic controller inputs. Button taps are far too often delayed to such an extent that parrying or assassinating successfully comes down to random luck rather than skill. Matters are exacerbated by an irritating pause after each successful parry, where your avatar doesn’t do anything for a brief second. Whilst the Knights seem to be invulnerable at this time, the pause serves to break up the rhythm of the game and makes it unnecessarily difficult to assess and respond to the next attack coming their way.
Wall running is also laughable, with both Knights sticking to walls like Spider-Man wearing a special edition Velcro costume. You might not want to run up the wall, but that won’t stop Lancelot and Galahad from pelting along it like a 9-year-old on sports day. Try to eject from the wall and your fingers will surely soon become a confused mess, your once legendary knight becoming a drunken and indecisive fool, soon to be killed by the hail of bullets spewing their way.
Level design is bland and clichéd. A chase atop the roof of a train, a lava soaked factory, a sequence involving a lift; there’s nothing here that you haven’t already played a hundred times of more. Actually, that’s not quite true. S VR inspired mission offers some interesting puzzles and reaction tests that are sorely missing from the hum-drum left-to-right adventuring available elsewhere.
Bosses are often a highlight, but are undermined by the game’s uncertainty of the rules concerning its parry system. At certain points a boss will become vulnerable to a parry, but the game does a particularly poor job of communicating this mechanic, resulting in me ignoring it entirely and opting for the usual asses the attack pattern, strike, then rinse and repeat approach to boss beating. The fact that the parry system is entirely ignorable speaks volumes.
There’s inconsistencies elsewhere, such as how bog standard enemies are frustratingly unaffected by the environment. Their lasers, missiles and what appear to be cardboard boxes, can travel through the walls and floor. This leads to missiles of foes from a few screens ago still tracking the player. Things become even more annoying as Lancelot and Galahad are unable to jump up or down between platforms, ultimately leading to the player being hampered by scenery while the enemy can ignore it completely. By far the worst culprit of this is the aforementioned lift level. One touch from the lift and your Knight is dead even if it isn’t actually squishing them, but enemies remain unaffected. Several tons of steel might be smashing through them but that won’t stop a Purge henchman from shooting their heat-seeking missiles!
If all that isn’t enough to put you off Fallen Knights then the here’s a few more. First off, there’s a ridiculous amount of grinding. Opt for Lancelot and you’ll have to play through the same handful of levels again and again to gather the points to unlock even the most basic of abilities; like a double jump or dash. This whole aspect of the game can be ignored entirely by opting for casual mode, which underlines how the concept wasn’t fully fleshed out. Finally, despite the basic visuals the framerate is unexpectedly dodgy, adding further woes to the controller input problems.