8bit styled action game from video game composer Yuzo Koshiro's development studio, Ancient. Defeat all monsters by 4 unique heros to protect your princess.
Protect Me Knight (??????) is famed composer Yuzo Koshiro's and Ancient's first release for the Xbox 360 Indie Games. The game harkens to an 8-bit era complete with cartridge blowing intro, Famicom sprite graphics, and a catchy and varied PCM soundtrack. Of course, lots of indie games do the retro thing for better or worse; Ancient here succeeds by building a fantastic, fun game without using the gimmick as a crutch.
Players select one of four characters -- knight, amazon, ninja, or mage -- and take on the task of defending the princess over the course of ten levels. Each level takes place on a fixed, single screen with the players defending the princess from a multitude of enemies of all shapes and sizes. The variety is excellent, and the hordes of attacking enemies keep things frantic through the end. Each player character has a physical and magic attack which help set them apart and alter the strategy involved in taking on the horde. Barricades can be built barricades to stall the approaching onslaught and are repaired by attacking the structures. The barricades can be upgraded from sticks to steel to catapults, at which point players can enter them and start flinging rocks at enemies (or teammates and the princess if not too careful with the splash damage). The four defenders can respawn an infinite number of times; it's when the princess dies that it's game over.
Along with an end of round bonus for surviving barricades, the princess gives her defenders hearts for defeating enemies, used to boost abilities between levels. Enemies get vicious in later levels, some gaining the ability to teleport beyond the barricades or attack over them. Players can move the princess around by pushing her, good for when you see that she has caught fire or about to be trampled. Protect Me Knight is a brilliantly constructed release with enough strategy elements to make players think without letting up on the fast paced arcade action. Yes, "arcade action," not tower defense, as the player constructs chiefly serve to halt enemy advancement, not obliterate them. That's the players' jobs.
The game may not take itself the least bit seriously with humorous biographies for the cast and other touches, but the game is no pushover, particularly on the higher difficulty settings. Unfortunately, the game is still limited to ten rounds of action before the end which could be a drawback for some, though the single player experience is lengthened some by making the trip with all four characters and tackling the higher difficulty settings. Protect Me Knight makes for an enjoyable single player game but an even better multi-player one. It's a shame that the game doesn't support on-line multi-player; while this is a common feature lacking among Xbox Indie releases, it hurts here because the game is just that good, and being able to play with others when none are available locally would be most welcomed.
That minor want aside, Protect Me Knight is as close to a "must have" as one can find among the Xbox Indie releases. The game is a blast, the action never lets up, and the premise and style belong to it alone. Between a healthy soundtrack composed by one of the greats himself, cute retro graphics which vibe well with the gameplay, and a sense of charm which endears itself to anyone playing, I'm hard pressed to find a fault in what is currently one of the better purchases to be made on the Xbox Indies channel.