Hey now, here’s something really cool. From seemingly right out of nowhere, Rebellion Games has released Joust Legend ($2.99), arguably the finest jousting game since Defender of the Crown ($2.99). For those not familiar with the fine sport of jousting, I’d recommend checking out the excellent documentary A Knight’s Tale, but the short of it is that two mounted knights gallop towards each other from a distance and use a giant pole to try to knock one another off their steed. The winner typically gets the hand of a princess or something like that. I’m not up to speed on current tournament regulations and prizes.
Anyway, Joust Legend takes what is already a very cool sport and makes it feel even more so. There’s a story here, and it’s decent enough, but let’s just cut to the important part. You play as a young knight just starting his jousting career. You name your knight, choose a horse and name it, too, and then you’re ready to go. Most of what you’ll be doing involves moving at high speed towards either another jouster or a target and smacking the stuffing out of said target with your lance. This will earn you some coins which you can use to upgrade your gear or deck out your horse. Additionally, you’ll unlock new tournaments and modes of play, power-ups and perks, and new gear for the shop.
Before we go any farther, I need to break some hearts. First of all, some games can run on hardware that isn’t in the compatibility list, and can be enjoyed, albeit with a weaker framerate and some slowness. Joust Legend will run on iPhone 4 and the first iPad, but the gameplay depends heavily on precise timing, so you’re going to be out of luck if you try to play. I gave it a go and quickly retreated to better hardware. The next heartbreaker – this game has no IAP. I know, I know, you guys are disappointed. You’re just going to have to deal with the fact that you’re paying once here and getting the whole package. If you want cool armor or a better lance or even horse armor, you’re going to have to earn it.
Now, about that precision timing. The gameplay in Joust Legend actually boils down to just a few simple inputs. First of all, you’ll set the speed of your launch by pressing and holding onto the screen until the meter is at the right position. If you hold too little, you won’t get as much speed, but if you hold it too long, your lance control will be affected. After you’ve started off, the next thing you’ll need to do is get your lance into position. This also involves a meter, this time with one press lowering your lance, and pressing and holding raising it up again.
There are a few possible targets, with the largest being the opponent’s targe, which nets you double the points of a regular body hit. Other possible targets include the body, the helmet, and the coveted crest, which nets you five times the points. The tutorial doesn’t do a great job of explaining this, but lowering your lance drains your strength meter. You’ll want to keep your lance raised until the last second, then drop it and quickly lift it to the desired target. Additional points can be earned by breaking your lance, which is accomplished by getting a good launch and an accurate strike.
You’ll go three rounds against each opponent, and whoever gets the most points across all the runs wins. Getting a higher score will earn you more cash, which is important because new gear is costly and until you unlock the Wager mode. The various types of gear have both statistic and cosmetic differences, but to be honest, I was hard-pressed to notice the difference on most equipment apart from the lances. But hey, do you want to look like a knight who was dressed by his mother, or do you want to look awesome?
More tangible are the effects of the various perks. After the first tournament, you’ll unlock the Prize Fight mode, where you’ll be given some power-up items which you can equip just before jousting. You’ll face a variety of opponents, and if you win in this mode, you’ll earn more power-ups, some of which are pretty useful. You can equip up to three of these at a time, and they can be used in any of the other modes. Once you’ve unlocked everything, you’ll have a bunch of tournaments, the prize fights, and the wager mode. There’s quite a lot of content in Joust Legend, enough to last for several hours, and even more if you’re interested in collecting all the gear.
A lot of what makes Joust Legend great is the superb presentation. The graphics are amazing, with detailed characters, great backgrounds, and a lot of cool lighting and reflection effects. The camera angles are very cinematic, really driving home the impact of collisions. Adding into that is the excellent sound design. Everything sounds authentic, from the horses to the crowds, and the hits sound powerful and painful. It looks, sounds, and feels, for lack of a better word, bad-ass.
The only major problem I have with the game is just that it never changes things up very much. The gameplay itself is quite simple and comes down to the same two meters, every time. It would be interesting if there were some other things to do to break things up. I would have loved to have seen multiplayer in the game, if it were somehow possible. Customizing your knight and horse is awesome, and it would be even better if you could show your stuff off to your friends.
The tutorial is also pretty lacking, and I wish the game would be a bit more clear about the effects of everything, particularly the various pieces of equipment. One other thing is that no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t seem to knock the other guy off his horse. The game makes reference to it in the load screen tips, but I just couldn’t make it happen. It’s too bad it’s not a little easier to pull off, because I really wanted to see that.
The core of the game is super fun, as many in our forums will attest to, even if it does get a bit old over long play sessions. I know it’s not really helpful criticism to say so, but I just would like to see more added on to Joust Legend. The idea is great, the execution of the main mechanics is exactly where it needs to be, but I really feel like certain elements, especially multiplayer, could really bring this game to the next level. Even as it stands, however, Joust Legend is definitely worth your time and money.