It’s clear that developer Angry Mob had classic games like the original Mario Bros. in mind when they designed their latest, Muffin Knight. This is a game with a very retro vibe and solid production values, but a few nagging issues prevent it from being quite as good as it could be. On the other hand, it does have a unicorn that poops rainbow-colored explosives.
The concept of Muffin Knight is very simple. Starting off as an arrow-shooting knight, your goal is to collect muffins on a single-screen level. Appearing one at a time, the muffins can be nearly anywhere on the screen. So, the poor knight must constantly run, jump, and drop to the various platforms to snatch them all. To make things challenging, various monsters will be dropping in from above to prevent muffin capture. One hit from a monster means death, so careful avoidance, jumping, and attacking is key to survival.
The gimmick to the gameplay is the transformation that occurs every time a muffin is collected. The player starts as a knight, but will instantly transform into a variety of warriors each time you collect another muffin. At any given moment, the knight will be a shotgun-wielding gnome, ninja kitty, claw-slashing bigfoot, fire-breathing dragon, unicorn with magical poo, and more. The more monsters you kill and muffins you collect, the more experience points you earn. These points, in turn, can be used to upgrade each type of warrior.
The addition of light RPG elements is great, and the sharp cartoonish look of the game fits the frantic action well, but the game relies on very fine motions. It would be easy to imagine Muffin Knight in an arcade somewhere with a classic arcade stick and two buttons. Unfortunately, the lack of tactile response inherent with touch controls feels especially troublesome here. There are left and right arrows on the left side of the screen and attack and jump buttons on the right, but it’s easy to end up missing the controls when you try to tap them.
The controls feel a tad slippery, but are manageable overall. One issue that came up inconsistently during our testing was split-second freezing that occurred when the character changed form. There’s no control over transformations–it happens automatically–and the game would sometimes freeze just long enough to cause the knight to suddenly jerk forward. So, if a muffin was right by a pitfall (like a fire pit), it inevitably meant a frustratingly uncontrollable death.
There are currently only a handful of maps to unlock, but there’s plenty of incentive to keep trying each map for higher scores. The multiplayer is a great concept–adding a terrific competitive arcade feel–but unfortunately it’s local-only. Internet play would have really added a lot to the overall game.
Technical issues aside, Muffin Knight is sure to appeal to fans of simple, old school action. It definitely has a few nagging quirks, but pays a fine homage to classic coin-op gameplay. If you can deal with the somewhat clunky controls and possible freezing issues, it’s worth a look.