Buff Knight Review
I was (and for the most part continue to be) hugely critical of mobile games, but when I’m low on time or playing a game that proves to be time-consuming, they’re a great way of keeping this site updated. Take Buff Knight, for example, which I picked up for 2 dollars after deciding to play Final Fantasy XIII-2 and remembering how long XIII was. Needless to say, I didn’t expect much out of this little side-scrolling game; not only is the hero’s movement and attacking largely automatic, but the game basically revolves around grinding and is littered with more spelling errors than I can recall ever seeing in a single game. Despite all of this, Buff Knight quickly proved itself to be one of the more addictive mobile games I’ve played and wound up stealing more of my time than I’d care to admit.
The non-story and collecting “arftifacts”
The plot of Buff Knight is so simple that it’s explained in a single screen of text at the beginning of the game. Basically, a red dragon stole a bunch of artifacts and kidnapped the princess for some reason, so you set out on a journey to reclaim said artifacts and princess. Why are the artifacts important, you ask? They just are, so shut up.
If you haven’t picked up on it already, this isn’t exactly a story-rich game that we’re dealing with here. The plot is really nothing more than an excuse to send the nameless hero careening from left to right, smashing into every monster between him and the princess. On the way there, you’ll stumble upon the lost artifacts (displayed on the screen as “arftifacts”) here and there, though you’re not likely to find more than one or two on a given playthrough. As a result, you’re inevitably served a “this is not the real ending” screen and don’t actually find the princess. On the bright side, the artifacts are magical and confer stat boosts when equipped, so unlocking new artifacts means that you’re better able to handle trouble. The fake ending screen also gives you a vague hint on how to unlock those non-random artifacts that have strange requirements (such as tapping on a certain star).
There’s a real ending
I got frustrated with the fake ending screens and wound up going to Google to figure out how to actually get the real ending, only to find a fairly recent Youtube comment by “The Buff Knight”—the person who developed the game—stating that it doesn’t have a real ending yet. Maybe that was true at the time, or maybe the free version of the game doesn’t have an ending (I bought the paid version), but I made a point to collect all of the artifacts to prove to myself that there was no real ending, only to be surprised when I actually found the princess and lived happily ever after. I can’t say if you have to collect all 20 of the game’s artifacts or just the 10 “main” ones that were stolen, but collecting all the artifacts ensures that the story mode always ends with the real ending.
As I mentioned earlier, gameplay basically consists of the hero automatically moving right and smashing into hordes of enemies. He’ll automatically attack anything in his path, doing damage while taking a little back, and this can be avoided somewhat by using magic. This is a little button on the right-bottom of the screen that lets you shoot a bolt of lightning down onto the nearest enemy for 30 MP. MP regenerates as you play and can be partially replenished with blue potions, whereas HP (for those of you who didn’t grow up on jRPGs, that means health) doesn’t replenish and can be partially replenished with red potions. You have a choice in the paid version between three different movement speeds that you can switch between anytime. The slowest speed allows you to use more magic by giving your MP more time to regenerate, but it also slows down gameplay to an almost unbearable pace. Using the fastest speed, on the other hand, means taking damage faster and giving your MP less time to regenerate.
RPG elements, fairies, and endless mode
As you defeat enemies, you gain both gold and gems. Once you die—and you will die—you can use the gems to increase your stats (strength for improved damage, dexterity for a higher critical hit chance, intelligence for a more powerful magical attack, and endurance for more health) and the gold to buy new weapons and armor. You can also use the gold to enchant your weapons and armor to confer specific passive boosts; the helmet and boots always grant you a percentage damage reduction, for example, while other enchantments increase your overall health, critical chance, and maximum MP. The downside of these enchantments is that buying new armor erases them and makes them cost more. Their percentage boosts are also random, so you can re-enchant a piece of armor and actually end up wasting your money on something worse than what you had before. It all comes together to form an addictive combination of risk-versus-reward and mindless aRPG-inspired upgrading/monster slaying.
Fairies are floating goldmines that appear shortly after a four-note musical cue and drop money, gems, keys for the game’s many chests, and blue/red potions when tapped. They drop just enough to motivate you to tap them as quickly as possible without unbalancing the game, and this adds a nice extra layer to gameplay.
Endless mode (or “endeless mode,” as it shows up as on the menu), is a lot like the story mode, but without an end. The goal in endless mode isn’t to repeatedly die and grow stronger, then, but to stay alive as long as possible against increasingly powerful enemies. To this end, there are checkpoints that refill your HP and MP and allow you to upgrade without having to die first. Endless mode also provides you with the best weapons available in story mode to start with and allows you to upgrade even more from there, giving you access to more powerful and more expensive weapons and boasting a larger upgrade tree than in story mode. Most importantly of all, endless mode happens to be a great place to pick up artifacts. It’s even worth playing through endless mode once you’ve collected all 20 artifacts because 10 of them automatically upgrade to be more powerful when you collect duplicates, increasing the benefit of their boosts.
Graphics, music, and typos
As you can no doubt see, Buff Knight sports that 8-bit retro look so many indie games rely on. I think it works pretty well for this game, though, and while there’s not much in the way of detailed animations (the game is populated by static sprites and monsters with two-frame animations for the most part), it’s not the kind of thing that ended up bothering me. The music, on the other hand, is also done in a retro style and quickly proved to be grating beyond words. Not only is this music incredibly repetitive, but the chiptune style became such an annoyance that I eventually ended up turning it off.
Finally, I wanted to mention again that this game is filled with spelling errors. They’re absolutely everywhere, from the weird, borderline-insane phrases offered up by the hero when he sets out on his journey to the menus. These typos led me to believe that the game wouldn’t be anywhere near as much fun as it ended up being, so I advise those who might write the game off for its spelling-challenged ways to give it a real chance anyway. It may end up surprising you.