QSimutronics' One Epic Knight [Free] boasts a more interesting pedigree than your average endless runner: it shares a setting with the studio's Tiny Heroes [Free], a tower defense game that broke new ground for the genre by switching up the mechanics in a big way and being really funny.
Could Simutronics do it again? Would One Epic Knight do for the 3D runner what Tiny Heroes did for tower defense? The short answer is... not quite.
One Epic Knight is funny. The game's tutorial is in the style of a workout video, with your gold-armored avatar coaching you through your first run. He's a chatty little fellow, especially when faced with immediate death, with quips that reference everything from Monty Python to Adam Sandler. Many of his one-liners are original, as when he hopes that his latest ignominious death "won't wind up on Twitter."
Twitter and Game Center are represented with cute bugs on the game's parchment menu, so if you really want to tweet that, you have to catch and smush the blue bug. It's the little details that count. As you play further into One Epic Knight, you unlock more of the traps and monsters from Tiny Heroes, and, like in that game, the resulting deaths are silly and amusing.
The problem is that the humor value of catchphrases and ridiculous deaths wears off rather quickly in this genre - the first time the Knight started his run by with the battlecry "Leeroy Jenkins!" I cracked up. By the third time I got that line, I barely cracked a smile. That leaves the gameplay system itself, and the mechanics of One Epic Knight are resoundingly mediocre. The game uses three lanes, like Subway Surfers [Free] or Agent Dash [Free], and is overall a little less responsive than those games, leading to frustrating "but I was swiping left!" moments.
The major addition to the genre is the Knight's sword and shield, useful against monsters and against traps or monsters respectively. You could stockpile swords (and there is an achievement for that), but every time you kill a monster or disarm a trap, you increase your score multiplier. So if you want to attain a stratospheric score, you have to aim for monsters when you have a sword or two, and away when you're empty handed. There's no mechanic to using these items: you find them as you run, and you use them automatically when you can.
Swords and shields won't help you if you run into a wall or fall into a pit. That's a real problem, given that the blue-on-blue color scheme of the dungeon walls can make it hard to tell where a pit begins, and what the appropriate response is. One type of pit is actually a cliff, where you fall down to the lower level unscathed if you do nothing, but hit the wall and die if you try to jump it. That could be cool if it wasn't so hard to tell the difference between that and a normal pit you're supposed to jump over.
Some of the game's traps can be a bit sneaky the first time you encounter them, and that's alright by me - they're supposed to be traps, after all. Even the game's habit of placing power-ups in places where you will die if you try to get them suits the game's setting - luring heroes into traps was Dungeon Mastering 101 in Tiny Heroes. But when the game's greatest challenge is figuring out whether there is a pit at your feet, that's a design flaw.
There's a lot more Simultronics could do with this game, and maybe they will in updates. Some integration of One Epic Knight with Tiny Heroes would be cool: there's no realistic possibility of sharing levels between the games (the design principles are very different), but some crossover achievements would be a good start. For now, however, One Epic Knight just doesn't stand out enough in a growing field of Temple Run [Free] inspired games.
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