Knightfall: 3 of 101
Sunday, February 14, 2010 at 4:37PM
Richard Terrell (KirbyKid) in Indie, Misc Design & Theory, Puzzle, Review

Puzzle Quest is alright. Take a simple puzzle game that's shallow reading wise (Bejeweled) and throw in a bunch of RPG elements and a story, and you have a slightly more interesting way to play that shallow puzzle game for a much longer period of time. Let's not stray too far away from the point of this article; Knightfall 2. This game is a lot like Puzzle Quest. Fortunately, the core gameplay is better which is a great way to make an improvement to the puzzle/adventure/RPG genre. 

To start we must consider that Nightfall 2's core gameplay falls under the endless puzzle mode type. This means there's not a fixed challenge for players to overcome. Everything from the keys, enemies, the exit gate, and the block arrangements are shuffled around every time you play. This is not to mention how special items, enemies, and blocks are randomly dropped dropped into the board. Because of this endlessly replayable design, the deeper you read, the less accurate your strategies become. Let's cover the core design.

Check out this video for the game in action. 

Now we can get to the heart of the matter: reading the board in Knightfall. The capacity to which one can read Knightfall determines how much of a puzzle game it is. After all, puzzles are logic challenges designed to conceal the optimal strategy behind complexities or require a layered understanding of concepts.  

In a nutshell, the various formations of similar blocks create a wide variety of shapes. Because all the similarly touching blocks are eliminated simultaneously, the resulting blocks that fall and fill in the space change the relative positions of all the other elements on the board. This design is very much like the falling block design of Planet Puzzle League. Because eliminating blocks is the primary way to rearrange any element on the board, players have to be conscious of the shifting position of elements. Thinking ahead becomes an important element of reading. In addition, players have to decide between moving the Knight closer/farther from a target or moving the target to the Knight. 

Reading the board as a fluid mosaic of tiles that can fall in 1 of 4 directions to create formations of grouped blocks that are advantageous to eliminate as well as dynamic in terms of the resulting "fall out" is the most interesting and engaging part of Knightfall 2. Still, you just don't have enough control of the board. The more elaborate strategies you attempt, the more random tiles will drop onto the board. The more random tiles, the greater the chance your plans will simply fail to work out. This is bad enough for Knightfall 2. Unfortunately, the excess of RPG elements and abilities really deconstructs or works against the little strategy there is in reading. 

Everything from items that can restore HP and AP, being able to purchase items, and leveling up to increase HP and AP give the player enough suspended control to undermine the game by forgoing strategic moves for shallow "attack-attack-heal" like tactics. Because of the RPG elements, the depth of my strategies gradually waned as I level up and amassed funds. Shortly after the start of my adventure, the only thing that I had to look forward to for a quality strategic, puzzle challenge were the bosses (which are very creative).

On top of this, the penalty for death is very small if existent at all. No matter what level you die on in a "dungeon" you get the opportunity to simply try it again as many times as you like. When you game over, you get to come back with all of your items, experience points, and the energy in your Ability Bar. Sure the game is easier to complete because of this design, but this feature combined with the RPG elements removes most of the tension and therefore most of the meaningfulness of my actions. 

Article originally appeared on Critical-Gaming Network (http://critical-gaming.com/).
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