The number of good mobile freemium games that have any re-playability (as opposed to “addiction”) can be counted on one hand. One Epic Knight from Simutronics, designed by David Whatley, is one of them, and it’s back in the Kain family life.
One Epic Knight is the master of the “infinite runner” genre, and of whimsical characterization. Characterization! In a mobile game? How is this possible?
The Knight is a sarcastic and enthusiastic runner, exuberant in game. He is meta-aware of being directed by you, whose play he may criticize! This is the closest to second-person voice a game narrative is going to get. We are there to listen into his enthusiasms for smashing obstacles, killing creatures, and accumulating the three currencies of the game: points, gold, and distance.
There are sets of phrases at the beginning of the game (“I guess I could walk, but nah,” “Loot collection, 9-to-5”) in game (“THAT was close!”, “Whooa-whoa-a!”) and at the end of the game (“I’m not dead yet…OK now I’m dead,” “Do you even play games?”) Players tiring of the phrases and having accumulated enough points to buy new skins/characterizations get a new array of phrases. The Mayor-Knight, (“I’m sorry…but vote for me.” after killing a creature) The Athlete-Knight who cries out like they’re at the gym (“Gotta work my deltoids!”) and so on.
Players accumulate points, gold, and distance for various achievements, most of which are written in the same voice as the Knight speaks, dripping with sarcasm and cultural irony (e.g., “Stairway to Heaven” award for smashing into a wall at the top of stairs.)
The player learns the various components of when to jump, dodge, slide and swerve and the intermittent reinforcement of the amusing phrases and quirky characters sustains engagement for a long time. It’s hard not to resist the polyphony and visual joy of the rapturous state of “mana madness” — the Knight is invincible, and smashes everything, picking up any gold nearby.
The number of combinations and achievements gets exhausted after a while, and the wit runs dry on the nth repetition.
I’ve had another run with the Knight and have nearly completed every achievement. Achievement is one of the more curious misnomers labels, especially in mobile gaming. It usually just means “time served.” As such it may go off my phone again soon, but be revisited again a few years from now.
The Knight is one character in a Tiny Heroes universe, and shows both the possibilities and limitations to characterizations in game. Enjoy.
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