This is the story of a boy… and some muffins!
One thing you can say about the iOS platform that you can’t about many others, is the sheer amount of crazy-ass games out there. Be it attacking green pigs with birds, or riding a machine gun powered jetpack, it seems the crazier the plot, the better.
Muffin Knight is no exception, and while the title itself sounds odd, and even rude – like a euphemism for a man who likes lady bits – the plot is even stranger still. You play as a Muffin Knight, a boy cursed by an incontinent elderly fairy for losing her muffins. It is your job to travel the land and collect as many as you can.
I was expecting a standard platformer, but what you actually get is something akin to Bubble Bobble meets Super Smash Brothers. Each themed level, or arena, is static and comprises of multiple platforms in various positions, and is all contained within the iPhone or iPad screen. From here you must hop from platform to platform collecting the muffins. Various creatures are dropped into the arena, and will charge at your from your left and right as they travel downwards. You must avoid contact with any creature at all costs, and you can do this by either jumping over them, or attacking them. Should you even come within a Gnats willy of an enemy, the game will end and your muffins will be tallied up. Collect enough muffins in any given play session and you can unlock the next arena.
On the surface that is all there is to it really, but where things get really interesting – and incredibly addictive – is through both the characters available to unlock, and the levelling system.
First up are the multitude of characters you can play with. You’ll always start as the Muffin Knight, with his trusty bow, but as you collect a muffin your form will change to another, and will continue to cycle through your available characters with each muffin collected. You have three other characters to begin with: the Gnome with his shotgun; Mage and his cloud lightning; and the Archer with double crossbows which shoot in both directions. The list doesn’t end there though. As you start a game you are told of the next character that can be unlocked, and how many muffins will be required to unlock it. While unlocking arenas requires a quota of muffins to be collected in one sitting, the characters themselves only need accumulative muffin numbers. So even if you die, those muffins will still tally up.
I have to give props to Angry Mob Games and from wherever in the brains that they plucked these characters. From shuriken star wielding Ninja Kitties, to rainbow pooing Unicorns, the characters get crazier and crazier. There are fifteen in all and each have their own unique attacks. Some are long range and others require close quarters. Depending on the enemy, large or small, each character has their good points. The beauty and curse of this game of course is that fact that as you collect a muffin, your character changes, so you can’t plan ahead. This mania is what works though, and if you could pick and choose your characters at will, it just wouldn’t be the same.
Levelling up is the next main part of the game. As you play an arena, and depending on how well you do, you will earn XP. If you max out your XP at any given level you will level up. For each successful level up you will earn a point, with which you can spend on upgrading characters or buy perks. Character upgrades will improve either speed or damage, so for you to succeed in later arenas, you’ll want to upgrade as much as possible. A quick route to success can be had by unlocking perks, these include such powerups as being able to jump on the heads of enemies. It won’t kill them, and in fact will only make them stronger, however it can come in useful as a way of avoiding them. The most useful for me is the double jump, which as it states allows you to jump higher and reach platforms otherwise only accessible with a longer route. At first I thought I’d found an almost sure fire way to beat the game, only to find that the double jump is almost useless in the castle themed arena.
Levelling also has another use. Should you find it hard to collect the required muffins to unlock new arenas too difficult, you can also do so by levelling up to a set level. It’s a great way of rewarding a players commitment, and the only way I could successfully unlock all arenas.
Rounding out the package is the great cartoon-like presentation. I loved the art style of Angry Mob’s other game Guerrilla Bob, and in a way this shares a similar Looney Toon style. It’s 3D, but the characters and environments exhibit a hand drawn/painterly feel. An effect which is best suited to the smaller ‘Retina’ display on the iPhone and iPod Touch.
The sound is suitably fitting to the artstyle. The music is annoyingly catchy, and despite a few recycled sound effects from Guerrilla Bob, the sound effects are good. I particularly like the old fairy voice-over which announces each character change as you collect a muffin. It reminded me a little of Fat Princess on the PS3.
Finally, I can’t not mention the multiplayer. Unfortunately it’s not online, but what you do get is a local WiFi two-player experience that is extremely addictive. The object is the same as the single player mode, though instead it’s who can collect the most muffins. Once you are both dead they are tallied up, and the winner scores a point. It’s great fun and worked flawlessly in my playtest. Lack of online is a huge shame, as I think it would be great to go toe-to-toe with up to four players sharing one arena and vying for leaderboard glory… as would be allowing a second mode where you can kill each other Super Smash Bothers style.
Despite it’s multiplayer shortcomings, Muffin Knight is a game that should not by missed. It’s one of those games that just shouldn’t work. But, all the elements come together to form a unique arcade experience that will be comfortably at home with the other great – and strangely quirky – titles on the AppStore.
UPDATE: For those of you with the iCade’s the new update to Muffin Knight is definitely for you. Playing with the touchscreen controls is of course great fun, but if you are lucky enough to own an iCade cabinet then you are in for a treat. The physical joystick and buttons makes controlling the Knight far more accurate, allowing you to jump, fire and avoid enemies with greater precision.
Muffin knight is out now for iPhone and iPad for $0.99. Get it on the