Jet Set Knights
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Review code provided
Steeped in retro-inspired pixel-based beauty, Jet Set Knights is not the medieval prequel to Jet Set Radio we were hoping for. With that heartbreak aside, is this journey back in time worth your coin, or is this just another snake oil solution trying to steal your hard-earned coin?
Rest assured, while this has nothing to do with the previously teased Jet Set franchise, this title does the name proud. Set as an old school single-screen arcade action platformer, JSK ups the ante by adding in some light RPG elements to go along with its core tower defense. Get ready for it, the princess is under duress as you (and up to 3 friends) must protect her from the ever-increasing horde bent on stealing her from your kingdom. The mobs rush from portals increasing in quantity and speed as you cleanse the evil from the stage.
Pickups like wood and stone can be used to build walls and magical turrets to aide in the protection of our damsel in distress. The princess herself even gives you mini-quests that grant you a giant coin used in the gambling house. Treasure chests randomly appear and grant your hero with new, limited use, weapons, invincibility stars or our personal favourite the chomper suit. Part dinosaur, part Pac-Man all business, donning the suit lets the knight devour any enemy in sight for a limited time. Through the course of your battles, you will level up, enabling you to add an attribute point to your damage, health, speed, or critical chance. Each run begins from 0 so there is zero chance of starting the game as an overpowered behemoth. However, the previously mentioned gambling hall does offer a chance of unlocking artifacts. These little beauties add permanent modifiers (only one can be active) to aid in each new run.
Visually the retro-inspired 8-bit graphics explode off the screen with a combination of vibrant colours and charm. Each of the 4 initial characters (more unlockable) is more than just a palette swap as they each have their own look and personality conveyed through some subtle animations. The level design is simplistic by choice and each of the handful of worlds has its own look and hazards. Ranging from castles to candy land each level has its own identity and challenges the player to study its layout and be aware of the hidden traps and spikes just waiting to take your life. The variety of enemies was a pleasant surprise as the never outdated slimes and flaming skulls are joined by bats, cupcakes, and coin stealing elves. Looking for larger battles? The BOSS BATTLES sprinkled throughout step up the enemy design and scale. We certainly don’t want to spoil the surprises but can safely say you may recognize the inspiration behind a few of the behemoths that will try to ruin your day.
Audio-wise, JSK is a delight. The chiptune soundtrack is on point and perfectly compliments the on-screen action. The sound effects are equally handled with care and help balance the retro aesthetic of the game on a whole. While not to the level of the classics of yesteryear, the developers have done a fine job creating an auditory experience that takes you back in time while being present today. Some of the included touches that come along with levelling up or entering a boss battle help break up the carnage. A tune or two may get stuck in your head for a bit which is never a bad thing, especially if it brings a smile to your face thinking about this game.
The unlockable characters, 3 mini-games, weapons, and artifacts are enough to keep players coming back for more. Throw in hidden coin boxes and bonus stages and you have all the makings of a solid indie title. Yet, it’s the multiplayer that truly sets this one apart. The pick-up and play controls and easy to understand formula make this one a must for anyone ready for some couch coop mayhem. Yes, your hitbox can be a tad too big whereas the enemies seem a touch on the small side, but the pure arcade nature of the title makes that easy to look past.
TBG Score: 8/10
Platform: PC, PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo
Release Date: 25/09/2020
No. of Players: 1-4
Category: RPG, Action, Platformer
Developer: FobTi Interactive
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
Download link: US eShop / UK eShop