Publisher: Ratalaika Games Developer: FobTi Interactive Release: September 23th. 2020 (Xbox One) Reviewed on: Xbox One Also on: PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch
It’s a difficult task to put a new spin on a genre. Sometimes the end result is great and other times not so much. Fortunately, Jet Set Knights is in the former category. The game takes a different approach to the tower defense genre by mixing it with, dare I say, a bit of roguelike elements, and the result is quite fun.
There isn’t much of a story to the game, and that’s ok. It feels more like an arcade style game instead of a rich, story driven one. You select from a list of different knights, a few of which will be locked at the beginning. Each knight has a special ability which can be used by holding down the attack button. Your task is to protect the princess, who is located in a doorway on the lowest platform in the level, as waves of monsters advance upon her. The level design feels a lot like the old Mario Bros. with the monsters spawning from portals on the top of the screen.
You have several ways you can defeat the enemies. You start with a sword, but there are plenty of chests and power ups that will aid you. Chests contain arrows that give you a bit of an advantage. The arrows become more powerful as you unlock different types of arrows by completing different tasks in the game. For example, after opening so many chests, you will unlock ice arrows. Once an upgrade is unlocked, the next time you touch a chest it may contain the upgraded weapon. I say may because it’s random which type of weapon will appear. Maybe it’ll be the ice arrows or it could be regular arrows.
The game’s power ups will also randomly spawn and each one will have a different effect. You may find a stopwatch that will freeze the enemies, or you could pick up a spear that will do major damage. Some of the power ups affect the princess. For example, if you pick up the cat mask, the princess will wear the mask and shoot lasers out of her eyes at the enemies. Both the items found in chests and the power ups are on an invisible timer, but the amount of chests and power ups you get will offset the limited use of the item.
You also can build defense barriers that will help you in protecting the princess. To build the barriers, you need to have resources, either wood or stone. Wood will allow you to build walls that will protect the princess. Stone will allow you to build what is basically a turret that will shoot at the enemies. Unfortunately, you cannot build the defenses anywhere you would like. There are set areas where you can build your defenses, and even that is limited to what you can actually build; you can build wood walls right next to the princes and turrets at the other preset building locations. These defenses will disappear if an enemy runs into them too many times, so you need to keep getting materials to build them. Sadly, the materials are also a random drop and, unlike the power ups and chests, appear much more infrequently.
As you defeat monsters you will earn experience points which will level up your character. Once you level up, you can apply a point into different categories: character speed, critical hit (which increases your chance for a critical hit), health, or damage (which increases the damage you do). When you die, the levels and attributes do not carry over to the next run, which is where my reference to roguelikes comes into play.
Another thing you earn while playing are tokens. You earn these tokens by either collecting one hundred gold (gold drops when you defeat an enemy), collecting the letters to the word ‘bonus’ which will open a bonus level for you, or you can earn tokens by completing different objectives in the game. Tokens do carry over after you die, and you use them in the gambling house. The gambling house allows you to win artifacts that will help you in your quests. You can play either a slot machine where you use one of your tokens to pull the lever, or you can play mini games. You must unlock the mini games before you can play them, but the slot machine is available to you right away. The other way to earn tokens is by logging in on a daily basis and claiming your daily login prize.
You can also purchase boosts that will help you in your adventure. You access the boosts on the map, much like how you access the gambling house or the different levels. The one flaw in this design is the lack of explanation of how to access these different things, since it requires more exploration of the map and discovering what each area on the map does on your own.
After defending the princess for a certain amount of waves a boss will appear. The boss will not attack the princess and will require some platforming skills to beat. The addition of the bosses adds a nice mix to the game. Once you defeat a boss, you will receive a key, which will open a new level for you.
In addition to the single player, the game also offers a couch co-op mode. And, although the game lacks a leaderboard, it does track your overall stats.
Final Grade: B
Jet Set Knights is an addictive, retro style arcade tower defense game that offers more than what appears on the surface. Although it lacks any narrative, the game is an enjoyable twist on the tower defense genre. The inclusion of the gambling house where you use tokens earned in-game to get artifacts that you can use in your next run is a clever mechanic. And, while it does have a few design flaws and lacks any real instructions, these offenses are minor and don’t take away from the overall experience.
Review copy provided by Ratalaika Games