Welcome to this week’s Mobile Games Revue! Last week we entered the competitive vegetable-pulling industry with Giant Turnip. This week, let’s sit down and enjoy some indie storytelling, with BulkyPix and Tree Interactive‘s I Am A Brave Knight.
IAABK is a relatively short, narrative-driven, art game. Really, more of an interactive novel than a game. The “gameplay” mechanic, if you can call it that, is using a finger to draw a specific letter. The story of each scene is spelled out for you – literally – as you draw the letters onscreen. The word spelled is related in some way to the scene, adding another level of narrative. However, this is poorly utilized, often just emphasizing something already obvious, rather than adding subtext of any kind. The narrative itself is also nothing special.
In fact, the entire game just felt a little…superfluous. The description of the game, I feel, sums up the whole experience pretty well:
Do you have ten minutes to live a life?
Inspired by games like Journey or Cloud, I am a brave knight is a short story based on our perspective of life. The game follows the life of a man and his progress through it, from his childhood to his death. With an emotional story that will not leave you indifferent, get ready to live an experience and maybe learn something about yourself.
If you’re thinking that this sounds a little trite (bordering on self-aggrandizing?), then you’d be correct. Now, I went into this without having read that paragraph – which in retrospect was a great thing. IAABK does itself no favors by comparing itself to games like the critically-acclaimed Journey. Where its shortcomings were hard to get past even without that expectation, it is starkly hollow in contrast to the experience that a game like Journey (or, to a lesser extent, Cloud) can offer.
The narrative in IAABK is not, as you might guess, about an actual knight, but about a young man (by which I mean a tall blue rectangle with a toupee) who lives a wholly unremarkable life. Watch him as he defeats such demons as “meeting the love of his life and getting married,” or “being really good at the one job that he works at his whole life until he retires.” There is nothing really knightly about the character (the height of conflict in his life is the scene where he gets in trouble for being a rebellious teen), and so it feels like the game just abandons the idea of knighthood after the first slide.
Now, I will admit that during the (spoilers) slide where they discover his wife has cancer, I actually for a moment felt a flicker of an emotion. But I would not say that the story “did not leave me indifferent” and I absolutely did not “learn anything about myself” except that, as it turns out, I’m not a big fan of the game. I suspect that the game is relying heavily on the soundtrack to provoke emotion (the game recommends headphones, which I found to be unnecessary), but unfortunately, the music is not up to the heavy lifting.
The soundtrack is the same mournful tune from the beginning (when the main character is a kid watching movies and sneaking cookies) until the end (when everyone dies), and while at first it did inspire a sense of trepidation in me – as the game wore on and nothing happened, my trepidation turned to mild annoyance. When the game ended, I was stunned – not because of any personal revelation about the evanescent nature of human life – but because the story was so short, and despite its apparently large scope, didn’t seem to go anywhere.
Not every part of I Am A Brave Knight is bad. The gameplay is smooth and functional. The graphics, while simple, are clean and skillfully implemented. The music, despite its repetition and occasional ill fit with the narrative, is indeed gorgeous (and here is where a parallel to Journey can truly be drawn – the songs are in a very similar vein). It has no ads, no microtransactions, and was well worth the cost of zero dollars that I paid for it. With better writers, this team could produce a worthwhile game.
The game is not awful, but the fact that the main draw of the game, the narrative, is relatively underwhelming counts heavily against it. Add to that the lofty promises that the game’s description makes, and you have a rather well-rounded disappointment.