Endless runners are a dime a dozen, but few take the time to flesh out interesting gameplay. Wind-up Knight 2 adds an extra level of polish and platforming to elevate the game above its colleagues, but not without stumbling a little along the way.
In WUK 2 you play as a knight who must complete a stage while continually running at varying speeds. You are faced with a variety of obstacles that you must avoid on your trek to the end, such as boulders from above, spikes from below, enemies with weapons and environmental challenges that speed up or slow down your character. Further complicating your trek is the need to regularly obtain cranks for your character, lest the knight run out of juice mid-stage and die. Button inputs are minimal: you can jump, slash, shield, and roll.
In additional to simply finishing the main stages, you are tasked with completing a variety of side quests for each stage to earn crests which will allow you to proceed to later stages in the game. These usually involve collecting items or avoiding extra obstacles, and it's necessary to complete about one-third of all of these extra quests in order to clear the main campaign. There's also a tournament mode where you can compare your scores locally, and a Nightmare mode unlocks upon receiving an "A" rank in all the stages, should you have masochistic tendencies.
WUK 2 doesn't really advance past those basic ideas, but it manages to keep things fresh throughout the majority of the campaign by steadily increasing the amount of environmental hazards. The main stages are never especially difficult to complete, but the extra challenges that accompany each stage can be maddening. Thankfully there are several checkpoints in each level, allowing you the freedom to mess up and not be penalized by having to replay the entire stage from the beginning.
While there's little story to be had in a game like this, each level begins with a series of what equates to Twitter messages sent between a variety of characters (none of which we actually meet). They often contain little witty quips, and surprisingly add a good amount of enjoyment to the overall campaign. Playing so many stages in this style begets considerable frustration at times, so the genuinely humorous messages are a welcome distraction from the task at hand.
Visuals and sound are a mixed bag. The somewhat sterile environment boasts vibrant colours which make for a fairly pretty game. Off-TV play on the GamePad is a very welcome addition, though the image suffers considerably from the bland colours on the controller's screen. The music fits the gameplay, but doesn't risk any deviations from the preset formula established in the beginning. Unfortunately, this means that after playing the same stage over and over, it becomes incredibly annoying. Some earbuds and your own music selection help tackle that problem.
You will likely die hundreds of times before completing all quests. That wouldn't be as exasperating if the game at least gave you a chance to complete some of the later levels on your first try, but WUK 2 features plenty of cheap deaths. Spikes that you couldn't possibly have foreseen, diverging paths that require the right choice, and jumping boosts that send you to the wrong spot mean that there's no way you can complete the game without a plethora of restarts.
If you enjoy twitch reflex games, then WUK 2 is for you. While the game lacks depth, what's there is done well. Almost like playing a song or interacting with other members in a band, the ebb and flow of having to quickly nail different button presses feels pleasingly elegant in some ways, and completing a challenge gives you a real feeling of accomplishment. Unfortunately, the lack of stage variety coupled with occasionally mundane gameplay and cheap deaths knock this back a little; it's certainly worth considering, nonetheless.