Ever wondered what happens when you’re the adventurous son of a Mayor and accidentally set in motion the end of the world? Welcome to A Knight’s Quest, a charming if flawed action-adventure from Sky9 Games.
You play as Rusty, a brave (if clumsy) protagonist tasked with putting right his rather substantial mistake of setting free a swathe of demons that have a terrible habit of wanting to destroy everyone and everything, and it’s up to you as the only one who can bring serenity back to your normally quiet and serene island. It’s a fun premise to kick off an adventure larger in scale than you might have expected.
Where A Knight’s Quest exceeds is in its platforming sections, particularly in the puzzling Desert Proving Grounds, a fun sequence that challenges you in three individual areas (puzzle-solving, combat and platforming) to test your knowledge of the game's mechanics, with the reward being access to a boss room. You can attack them in any order you like, with the platforming sequence a particular highlight. The whole thing harkens back to traditional mechanics, such as avoiding spikes out of the ground, jumping over sinking sand and navigating your way across bridges to avoid the dreaded water that Rusty appears to dislike with the fury of a thousand suns. There’s a real traditionalist feel to these areas which makes it stand out, and the final brainteaser in the puzzle sequence is infuriating but hugely rewarding once completed.
There are various highlights scattered across A Knight’s Quest, but the one constant is the sense of humour in the dialogue. Throughout you’ll be quietly chuckling away at the script, with a persistent flow of light-hearted quips that bring the NPC’s surrounding you to life, particularly in the town just before the Desert Proving Grounds ("I’m a fan of capitalism!") or Rusty’s father, Mayor Munsch, who has a particular fondness for cannons and even manages to sneak in a rather unexpected comment on terrorism ("Since when has shooting something out of fear and ignorance ever had any unintended consequences?"). The dialogue is very aware of itself, with Rusty referring to his sword as his "whacking stick" early on, setting the tone for the rest of the story. It's certainly a refreshing change of pace in a market full of action-adventure games that take themselves far too seriously.
The most confusing aspect of A Knight’s Quest, though, is that throughout the playthrough it seems at odds with what it’s attempting. Pulling aspects of various 3D platformers and open-world RPGs into a single experience would seemingly make sense – and certainly works well in particular levels – but when this mechanic comes undone, it makes the game feel disjointed. The navigation is fine, but it’s almost as if the game encourages you to get lost so you can find your own way through. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but there are times during the playthrough where you’re not entirely sure if the open world has ended and the level has begun.
Whilst you can set tasks and quests to follow, you’re encouraged to navigate your way there and at times that means an awful lot of backtracking between gargantuan levels of platforming. There are times when you feel like you’re making no progress at all because you’re simply going back and forth trying to find your way to the location you’re meant to be heading towards, making this light-hearted experience feel unnecessarily convoluted. The map isn’t particularly helpful and despite offering up the bare minimum of showcasing where your next quest is located, you’re not able to zoom in to see finer details. This is a vast open-world map that could really do with the ability to 'pin' certain sections such as health pools, shops and treasure spots. Instead, you’re left to simply remember the more useful locations, and in a game as expansive as A Knight’s Quest, it’s a critical oversight.
Still, it’s in its technical aspects where A Knight’s Quest suffers the most. From slowdown, early sections that appear blurry and audio that cuts in and out, it’s plagued by hugely unfortunate problems and there appears to be no rhyme or reason to what is causing these hiccups. Certain areas are beautifully clear, full of colour and a joy to explore, whilst others are jaggy and slow. An early sequence has you navigating water rapids in order to make it over to an area without a bridge. As you’re powering through, a fight will break out that you’ll need to win in order to progress. You’re surrounded by enemies and it seems perfectly fine, though if you fall in the water anywhere near this area, Rusty’s movement will grind to a halt like the game is struggling to keep up with handling the water physics and keeping track of Rusty's movements within it at the same time. Water seems to be a bit of a sticking point throughout the game; Rusty can’t swim, so if you find yourself in a section of water that he can’t stand up in, he’ll fall and you’ll have to seek out an alternative route.
The climax of the game's performance problems takes place in the docks at the very beginning of the game. Rusty accidentally got caught in deep water and the game decided to infinitely respawn him in the exact same spot before giving us a chance to move him out, meaning the whole thing needed to be reset in order to continue. Discovering game-breaking bugs in the first twenty minutes does not make a particularly great first impression. At least on the Switch version reviewed, it would seem the odd patch here and there will do wonders; it remains to be seen if this happens.
It’s hardly a surprise to anyone that the biggest influence throughout Rusty’s adventure is The Legend of Zelda. Whilst most fantasy action adventures all tread a familiar path (chests to open, an expandable inventory, unlockable gear, monsters and vast worlds to explore and so on), the bright and breezy nature of A Knight’s Quest makes it feel like a companion to Link’s lighter, more care-free adventures. While the humour that runs throughout allows the game to shine in its own spotlight, the stage it’s performing on belongs to the world of Hyrule, echoing Wind Waker and Phantom Hourglass.
A Knight’s Quest attempts to create just enough of its own enjoyment to not make it feel like it’s merely a mash-up of greatest hits from the overcrowded action-adventure genre album that’s a couple of tracks too long, but it’s difficult to escape the nagging feeling that – particularly on Switch – everything A Knight’s Quest throws at you is available with far more polish elsewhere.
A Knight’s Quest brings a much needed light-hearted take on the action-adventure fantasy genre, with a genuinely funny sense of humour running throughout and plenty of world to explore. It’s marred by a poor navigation system, inconsistent visual quality and an overall lack of polish. There’s plenty of fun to be had on this quest, but there’s very little to write home about when the Switch is full to the brim with similar titles that provide superior experiences.