Platform reviewed: Xbox Series X/S
Also on: Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4/5, Steam, Xbox One
Bahnsen Knights is a visual novel that sets itself apart from others I have played. While certain chapters may rely heavily on reading, there are also moments that demand quick thinking. These particular moments truly captivated me and allowed me to fully immerse myself in the shoes of the protagonist, Boulder. This ability to place the player directly into the story makes Bahnsen Knights truly fantastic.
The story's protagonist is Boulder, an undercover agent who infiltrates a religious cult called The Bahnsen Knights. His mission is to expose the cult and seek justice for the death of his Agency partner and friend, Cupra. Leading the cult is Toni, a charismatic leader who used to work as a car salesman before becoming a cult leader. The Bahnsen Knights recruit followers by convincing them that they have the power to drive away tornados. This belief strikes a chord with the locals in the Bible belt region, where tornados are a common occurrence.
The story unfolds using a combination of text and captivating visuals. The artwork is skillfully crafted with a pixelated blend of rich reds and deep purples. This deliberate choice serves a purpose, effectively establishing the tone of the narrative. It also cleverly mirrors Boulder's psychological anguish, evoking a sense of unease within me as well as I delve into the story.
Of course, a visual novel cannot be considered good without a strong story and writing. I loved the story behind Bahnsen Knights. Boulder's inner turmoil as he copes with the loss of his partner and the pain of being distanced from his loved ones added depth to his character, making him truly believable. The interactions with Toni were gripping, amplifying the charisma and darkness that defined his relationship with the Knights and with Boulder. And, despite the seemingly absurd concept of driving on the road to banish tornadoes through "exorcisms," the skillful writing and storytelling made it feel entirely plausible. Even Boulder started to question what exactly was going on.
In the game, there were specific moments when I needed to ask questions and gather clues. These clues are essential as they will be sent back to the Agency to incriminate Toni. However, it is not as straightforward as delivering the clues to a handler. Instead, Boulder takes these clues to the gravestones of his wife and child, who are actually alive, but the pain of not seeing them is killing Boulder. This strategy, set up by his handler, is intended to make Boulder embrace the sorrow that the Bahnsen Knights thrive on. The clues are then placed with the appropriate religious figure cards. This detail added an interesting element to the game, requiring me to carefully consider how to assign the evidence. This mode of storytelling and building a case truly immersed me in the role of an undercover agent.
But what truly captivated me were the moments that demanded quick decision-making. There were instances where I found myself controlling a car from a bird' s-eye perspective and had to swiftly swerve either left or right by selecting the corresponding option in a dialog box to evade oncoming traffic. Although this mechanic resembled an arcade-style experience, it served as a refreshing break from the intense narrative moments.
However, the instances that truly sent my heart racing were when Boulder had to navigate through a room to collect evidence, with a timer ticking down in the upper left-hand corner. This immersive experience made me feel as if I was right there alongside Boulder, heightening the tension. These moments set Bahnsen Knights apart from other visual novels.
Final Grade: A
Bahnsen Knights, the third installment in the Pixel-Pulp series, captivated me with its well-crafted story. It truly immerses the player in the character's emotions, setting it apart from other visual novels. Although it is relatively short- approximately two and a half hours- I cherished every moment of this game. If you're a fan of the click-and-play genre and enjoy visual novels, I highly recommend picking up Bahnsen Knights.
Review code provided by Stride PR