I was an unabashed fan of the original Wind-up Knight, not only because developer Robot Invader takes Android as seriously (if not more so) as iOS, but because the always-running platform mechanics were some of the best I’d seen on a mobile device.
The sequel is bigger, better and more beautiful in every way. The team hasn’t messed with a good thing, though: you still play a cutesy knight tasked with the role of defending his kingdom (the original tasked you with rescuing the princess, which the new game’s introduction, with its characteristically dry wit, lambastes you for not completing) by jumping, slashing, blocking and rolling through many, many difficult levels.
WUK2 adds a few interesting twists to the original core: checkpoints have been added, making it easier to resume playing on longer levels after dying, which you will do often. The game rewards you for not needing checkpoints (ie. beating the level in one fell swoop) but they’re there as crutches. The coin-based in-game currency system is back, and a new form of money has also been added: tickets. The former is used for purchasing new equipment, such as a Hard Helm for fending off drops from the sky, or a Diamond Sword that shoots a projectile at oncoming enemies. Obviously, like many free to play games, it’s easier to pay for coins than grind out the necessary amount from playing, but Robot Invader has, as with the original, balanced the game mechanics perfectly so none of those powerups are ever necessary to progress through the game.
What is necessary is paying a flat fee of $4.99 to unlock all the levels. The game gives you roughly 20 to play for free, including bonus rounds, so there is some replayability if you don’t want to shell out the cash (it’s $2.49 for the first 30 minutes of play), but it’s worth it for the later levels. The game gets furiously fast and extremely difficult, but the forgiving and accurate controls make it worth the time expenditure. The core mechanics don’t change much — you’ll still run, slash, jump, block and roll — but the combinations do, and getting through those later missions is a test of will.
Robot Invader has added a second divergence to WUK2: side quests. Whether it’s completing the same level without killing anything, which is harder than you might think, or collecting all the diamonds hidden throughout the course, or avoiding all of the evil red coins, side missions add variety and difficulty to levels you may have already played. The team forces you to play through at least a few of them in order to reach the later rounds, which designer Chris Pruett describes as practice for some of the more intimidating levels.
There’s also a tournament mode, which uses the aforementioned tickets, that allows players to run through a new level every day to challenge one’s friends across Google’s Play Games service. Indeed, game progress is saved in the cloud, both on iOS and Android, so users can pickup on a tablet and continue on a phone later on. The tournament mode requires a single ticket to play, which doubles to two tickets after a death. If the tickets run out, more can be purchased for coins, which can in turn be bought using real money. Again, you’ll likely never need to pay for anything using gold coins, but the option is there if you want it.
The original Wind-up Knight quickly became one of my favourite mobile games of all time, and the sequel looks to improve in almost every way. The graphics are stunning, and the physics far more accurate — your character’s net sways in the wind, and reacts appropriately when it captures something — which adds to the game considerably. The music, sound effects and art quality are also far better, and I noticed no frame rate drops on any of the devices I tested it with.
Wind-up Knight 2 is not yet available to everyone, but Robot Invader is rolling out a test version to Android users in Canada, Australia and a few other countries.