Back in 1981, a progressive rock band called Saga wrote a song titled “Wind Him Up,” which chronicles the misery driving a desperate man and his gambling addiction. Those of us who like to take lyrics literally, however, will find that it also works as an anthem for Robot Invader’s platforming game, Wind-Up Knight.
Wind-Up Knight is a run-forever game that demands lightning reflexes from the player. In other words, it shares company with about 50% of the offerings already on the App Store. But Wind-Up Knight is one of the best, thanks to fantastic graphics, tight controls, and lots of fun little bonuses. If you’ve already had your fill of games about characters who are seemingly incapable of stopping whenever common sense dictates, you won’t get anything out of Wind-Up Knight. But if you’re still ga-ga for the genre, you must get to know this little tin-plated hero.
Here doggie, doggie, doggie.
The game’s premise isn’t difficult to wrap your head around. Wind-Up Knight tells the story of a clockwork warrior (we assume he eats clockwork oranges) who’s on a quest to save a princess from an evil wizard. Your knight runs automatically from the left side of the screen to the right. About a billion obstacles try to impede his race to glory, including pits, traps, spikes, low ceilings, and hordes of monsters. You must press the appropriate button to deal with these road blocks: jumping gets you over pits and spikes, swinging your weapon will take down monsters, rolling will carry you through tight squeezes, raising your shield will protect you from falling objects, and so on.
It’s up to you to keep your brain’s wires from getting crossed, because pressing the wrong button at the wrong time means disaster. Moreover, Wind-Up Knight sneaks in a little extra shot of deviousness by making the knight’s running power finite. If you want to keep on running, you have to keep on collecting the wind-up keys scattered through each level– and not all of them are within easy reach.
A thorny situation.
Wind-Up Knight isn’t a forgiving game. The levels (there are over 50 of them) have no checkpoints, so if you mess up, it’s back to Go. This is both a blessing and a curse. It’s extremely frustrating to trip up during your final sprint on a particularly tough level, but it also feels good to be punished if you want to recall the days when video games were truly unforgiving and demanded that you commit every move to muscle memory (alternatively, it also feels good to be punished if you’re just masochistic about your games, period).
The game’s controls are tight and responsive, so any mistake lands squarely on your head, like any of the dozens of boulders that you will surely have a close encounter with through your run. That said, it would be nice to be able to re-arrange the game’s buttons to your own liking.
Nevertheless, Wind-Up Knight is a charming distraction that boasts lots of levels and power-up bonuses for perfectionists who want to collect every card and every coin in every level. It’s not a particularly deep or long game, but the attention that Robot Invader put into its graphics, sound, and general presentation speaks of a studio that cares about personality and polish.