Just when you think you’ve seen everything on the App Store, a developer comes up with a new curveball. This time it’s Angry Mob Games (of Predatorsfame), who present the tale of a boy transformed into a diminutive knight and tasked with gathering all the magic muffins he accidentally blew sky-high. The game’s title and intro may have the player believing this little tyke will spend all his time as a Muffin Knight (Out Now, $0.99), but in truth, the fairy godmother responsible for this transformation has many more tricks up her sleeve.
Muffin Knight contains six platforming arenas slightly larger than one screen each. The player’s job is to rush around collecting muffins that appear in random locations, making sure to destroy or at least avoid enemies that drop in to crash his gathering spree. Failing to dispatch enemies exacts a penalty. If they manage to filter all the way through to the pit sitting at the bottom of a level, they’ll drop back in and thread their way through twice as fast, making it that much more difficult for the player to avoid them when they come around again. Muffin Knight‘s levels are played essentially infinitely, but Angry Mob Games instills a nice sense of progression by letting the player unlock new levels and character classes as collection goals are satisfied.
And it’s the character class changing that will go down as Muffin Knight‘s most memorable gameplay element. While the player’s doing all this rushing around, the most bizarre thing happens: the fairy godmother, observing from somewhere offscreen, randomizes the player character’s costume and offensive abilities every time he collects a muffin! One moment he’ll be slinging arrows as the eponymous Muffin Knight; the next he may be a Unicorn laying rainbow turds that explode once enemies step on them. I’m not making that last part up — it’s the developer’s sense of humor at work.
The automatic and randomized aspect of Muffin Knight‘s class change system is jarring to the point that I wouldn’t necessarily encourage developers to keep doing something exactly like this, but I must admit it works wonders in keeping an otherwise simple action platformer constantly fresh. While the character classes feel roughly equivalent in terms of movement and jumping ability, their offensive natures vary widely. Many have a clearly recognizable handicap; the Monkey can fall victim to its own boomerang bananas, the Bird slings eggs at an angle that leaves it unable to target enemies directly in front of it, and the Frog takes forever to prep a flick of its mighty tongue. Other classes – like the Unicorn and boomstick-wielding Gnome – are clearly advantaged, and offer the player relative security for their offensive prowess. There’s no telling what the player will transform into the next time a muffin is collected, so triumph requires a lot of swift adjustments.
Players can squeeze extra mileage out of an online multiplayer mode, which pits two contestants against each other in a race to gather the most muffins. As in the single player mode, these play out in arena settings with enemies constantly dropping in. The population of Muffin Knight players is still too small to guarantee a match judging from our experience over the weekend, so players will want to organize ad hoc competitions with friends ahead of time.
Muffin Knight‘s one liability is its interface, composed of virtual buttons that I found much too small for such an action-heavy title. On too many occasions I found myself missing a critical jump or attack for failure to hit the mark with my thumb. I was glad to see that the developer allows the player to adjust the position of virtual buttons at least; what the game needs in updates is an option to adjust their size!
While Muffin Knight‘s arenas are quite simplistic in their layered vertical design, you’ll seldom notice because they’re just brimming with gorgeous cel-shaded models. The game’s intro is admirably drawn and narrated, and the great voice work punctuates the entire game since the fairy godmother sees fit to announce each class change. The Zombie class’ puking sound effect is so realistic that I could have done without it though; if you happen to be emetophobic in the slightest, you’ll want to make use of the sound effects switch when you unlock that class. Or just get to the nearest muffin before you lose the one you ate for breakfast.
iFanzine Verdict: Muffin Knight‘s interface desperately needs some size adjustment in updates, but it’s so deep and fast-paced you’ll probably forgive it if you’re into creative action games and don’t mind a little potty humor.