Written by Edwin Francisco
Good Knight is a bullet hell game that uses a one button mechanic, developed by Team Good Knight. Published by Doublethink Games.
The story itself is very light, but it is loosely based on Dante’s Inferno, wherein the main character will fight his way through different levels of hell. But instead of the usual demons and creatures of hell, you go through a lot of Philippine villains and mythological creatures. The game has some inspiration of a bit of Greek writing too. The story also builds up when you read the messages on the stages.
Good Knight, being a bullet hell game, it will rain bullets towards you. Most bullet hell games are designed to play as “shoot ‘em up” games or in short “shmups” where you are able to shoot back at the ones shooting at you. Good Knight on the other hand is not a shmup game since you rarely focus on attacking back. Your objective in each wave of bullet hell attacks is to find the safe spot and survive the raining bullets. The character you use basically just runs in circles while trying to dodge the bullets.
One Button Should Be Enough, or is it?
When I initially played this, I used my keyboard and mouse. But, eventually, I did change and used a game controller instead.
Even though the game has one other button that you can use to give you a little more advantage for a brief period of time, Good Knight uses just a one button mechanic. The one button (left or right mouse click; on the game controller, it is pretty much almost every button) mechanic is actually confusing at first, mainly because it does 3 things. First it changes your direction of running, either clockwise or counter clockwise. Second, it also does a circular attack. Yes, as you press to change direction, it will make a large swooping circular attack. You can’t attack only and not change direction. So, that part takes few tries to get into. Hold the mouse button and the character will slow down a bit but it can do a focused directional attack once you release the button. The focused attack needs to recharge, so you can’t use it regularly.
The one button mechanic is actually misleading. There is another button to press in Good Knight, although this time it’s the keyboard’s left shift key (or Left Trigger on the game controller), this actually slows down time for a brief moment. You can’t keep using this mechanic because it costs you points; again, you’ll need to recharge this ability to be able to use it again.
So, this is generally a two-button game instead of just using one. But using the Left Shift is generally just optional, you should be able to finish the game even without using the slow-motion ability, if you are really good.
The game mechanic itself takes a few tries to get used to. If you’ve been playing a lot of action games, it’s quite disorienting when you use just one button for almost everything. So, the simple one button mechanic makes this feel like a casual game, but the bullet hell aspect of it can be quite stressful and possibly frustrating for some gamers.
Holding the left button to target is hard to use, especially since you rarely use it. Focusing on where to target feels clunky and it feels like it could have improved with another control scheme. Using a game controller, the directional pad does help. I tried using an Xbox Series controller and the game felt more comfortable using the focus action.
The downside of using that one button mechanic is the pressing on that one button for long periods of time. It is not a healthy thing to do. You can get RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury) especially if you have already been using the mouse all day and then this is your game to relax on. I suggest getting some long breaks after that one-hour gaming session of Good Knight and relax your hands. Thus, I do like that Good Knight’s gameplay is separated in chapters.
If you get a chance to use a controller, use it. The control scheme feels a lot better and the focus targeting uses the analog stick. I was able to take advantage of it, and defeating some bosses was a lot quicker. Overall, it’s a much better option to use a gamepad on this instead of the default keyboard and mouse setup.
Hell looks very interesting
The overall look of the Good Knight seems to be inspired from gothic imagery, games like Castlevania, Diablo, and EA’s Dante’s Inferno could have been influences in their design.
The levels are very simple visually. All the levels are just setup like a circular arena. There are some environmental graphics, but they are just for show. One level feels like there is a bunch of trees around you, another level feels like there is a wall of fire, and another level has infinite number of stairs. But all of that stuff doesn’t really do anything. The important thing that you need to look at is your position and all the bullets flying towards you.
The look of Good Knight obviously relies heavily on Filipino influence. The first thing I actually notice is that it even uses the Baybayin lettering as a design element which has been getting a lot of attention lately in the Philippine community. It may be used as a design element, but it is actually readable.
The villains or enemy bosses are based on Philippine mythological creatures like the “Lamang Lupa”, Tikbalang” or the “Manananggal.” What was weird to me was making “Friar Damaso” as a monster which is based on a fictional abusive priest in the book “Noli Me Tangere.” Also, “Magellan” is another villain included in the game. The character is based on Ferdinand Magellan, the Portuguese explorer who circumnavigated the earth.
His voyage has led him to the group of islands that eventually got named after his King. In books he may even be considered a hero for exploring the globe. But in Philippine history, the world-renowned explorer can be considered as a villain for forcing their beliefs to the natives. Certain accounts of abduction to forcibly inculcate Spanish beliefs to the natives are also archived. So, in this game, he is made into this evil monster only known as “Magellan.” While the other opponent is “Lapu Lapu” who in history is the one who killed Ferdinand Magellan. But here, Lapu Lapu is represented like a guardian than a monster.
I love that Good Knight really exposes a lot of Philippine mythology and history. It makes people curious who or what these characters are. The game promises a gallery, and I actually look forward to seeing that. But for now, the gallery is locked. But I’m sure, people would want to check that out.
The graphics is good, but mainly because of the heavy emphasis on bullets. The visual effects can get a tad bit distracting. So many particles are used when possible. At times there are particles that block the visual of your own character for a split second. This split second in the game is very crucial since it can get your character killed. There are times that it’s even longer than a split second and you hope you don’t die while you are blind. There are times that there are effects that look like bullets but are just actually design which can be misleading. Note that some sections of the menu are not readable at times depending on how the graphics did load up. In terms of the art style, at times, it feels that the game feels unrefined with certain villains.
Turn up the visual effects, and the laptop I was using for Good Knight slowed the animation down. Giving my gameplay a bit of a cheating advantage since it will give me a perpetual slow down. This for me, even though it looked great, felt off. The game was designed to run on a specific speed, so slowing it down by increasing the graphics didn’t feel right to me. But if your computer can handle it, it looks amazing.
Understanding the patterns
Good Knight, even though it looks like a bullet hell game, is generally more of a puzzle game. You try to find the pattern, look for the safe spot, and get the timing right. Figure all of those three and you’ll survive insurmountable number of bullets of that wave, then the pattern changes in just a few seconds of surviving. Each wave of attacks will make a checkpoint but it won’t save your game progress. So, you really have to stick to the game until you get to finish the entire chapter before your progress can be saved. One chapter can last about an hour, depending on how good you are.
The room for mistake is very small in some bullet patterns. This game is also a one hit kill for your character. Make a small mistake and your character instantly dies. Which can really make you repeat several times on one particular wave. If you die 200 times on a level, don’t blame yourself. The game is really hard.
My problem is with trying to solve the patterns. This is because I have a hard time seeing everything on a 15-inch screen. I do wonder if my gameplay will improve if I have a bigger screen so I can see my character better.
There are times that the game can get a bit too frustrating. You know the pattern, you know what you are doing, but the precision needed for the game can be very delicate and one small mistake can ruin your game. This makes you repeat the process all over again. There are times that when I get through those waves, I wonder if it was just sheer luck.
But once you get over a wave, it’s an amazing feeling! Getting through the waves and waves of bullets is extremely satisfying.
Splitting up the progress
Good Knight is split into chapters which is estimated to run for an hour for each. …more or less. I don’t like the idea that the game saves only after finishing a chapter. Mainly because, I generally don’t have the dedicated time to play. I’m a person that if I need to be called out to do something in the middle of playing a game, I may need to immediately stop whatever that I am doing and possibly need to shut down the computer for a number of hours before getting back to play again. And loosing that progress can be frustrating, not because of the game, but because I had no choice but to quit and restart all over again. But as a design perspective, I understand why it had to be done that way. It gives you that feeling of intensity and urgency.
Remember that feeling of playing classic games on the NES where there is no such thing as a save point or save state? It gives you that feeling too. You try to finish the game or stage or chapter as much as you can with the time that you have. Recently, I had to put the game on standby in the middle of the chapter because I needed to do some work. It was on standby for more than 6 hours, just because I didn’t want to lose my progress in the chapter.
What I like about the game is that once you die and press retry, the game immediately gets back into action and just restarts the current wave. Once you are in the game, waiting to load the checkpoint is practically nonexistent. So, getting back in action and figuring out the pattern is quite fast. So, rather than get frustrated, I can just focus on finding that right perfect spot and the right timing on pressing the button. I also enjoyed the fact that each wave of bullets doesn’t feel like it’s impossible. You always get that feeling of, being able to figure it out. Because of that, it keeps you playing with that feeling of, “one more try” or “I can do this.” It is a satisfying feeling once you get through a chapter.
I just wish that there is a more proper save point within the chapters, since I noticed that each chapter is split in 3 sections. I wish you can exit the game at any time and return to that particular section that you left off.
I didn’t like that Chapters are unlocked based on points. But the second time you play a level, it will put you in hard mode. You’re not allowed to play it on easy. Once you finish that, it should be enough points to open the next level. So, you’ll have to repeat a level to get more points to unlock the next one. For me, as a person who doesn’t really like grinding, this is a bit of a turn off. I actually struggled thinking if I should repeat a level just get more points to unlock the next one. Because in general, I don’t like to repeat a level just to grind. But if you want the challenge, I’m sure you’ll love this one.
Everything is in the details
I found Good Knight funny that each time you die in the game, it will show a phrase or a swear word. Sometimes it even displays a quote from a movie or a song. Lots of Filipino curse words in the game too. This might be confusing to people who don’t speak the language, but it is extremely funny to Filipinos. Note that some words or phrases are internal jokes as mentioned by one the co-creators.
There is also a multiplayer option. Although you have to make sure that a controller is attached, or else it won’t let you add a player. What this does is that it makes the chances of surviving the wave longer. If one dies, the game still continues. If all players die, the wave repeats. So, technically, the level gets a little easier… if anyone survives that is. But boss fights will be a little harder because the auto attack is slower.
The metal music is another thing that helps the game. Good Knight’s music keeps you engaged and excited to get going. At times you can even use the music to help you with the timing of when to move. But in general, it just helps your emotions to push through the game. I love it. I can’t wait to listen to the music again on Spotify. A recent patch also added the ability to gain points if you time your button presses with the music rhythm.
I didn’t encounter any bugs or crashes while playing the game, which is great. Because never did it once pull me out of the game. It kept me wanting to push through until the end of each chapter. If I was a bit younger, I might have pushed through several chapters before giving myself a rest. Each time I finish a wave of bullets, I feel very accomplished and I couldn’t wait to get the sudden rush of accomplishment.
Wow, that was satisfying…
Overall, I really enjoyed my time with the game, Good Knight. It was incredibly fun, despite being also infuriating. There’s an interesting balance between those feelings of rage and overwhelming satisfaction. It felt like it was giving me small doses of adrenaline rush each time I finish a wave. It’s just awesome.
The gothic inspired graphics was great, never mind that I had a few technical issues, especially at times when certain elements are blocking my view. The music kept me playing and actually loving it. The waves of bullets kept me thinking what’s the best position and how should I move.
For what the game was meant to do, it got a lot of the elements right. I see no faults in the overall design of the game.
But I do have issues with it in some general aspects. I also didn’t like locking the chapters with point grinding and the lack of save points within the chapters.
There are more positives about Good Knight than there are negatives, but those negatives feel significant enough to pull down my overall score. But other than that, I love it. I highly recommend this game if you are a person who loves puzzles and with a penchant for an incredible amount of challenge. You must not miss out on this.
Considering that Good Knight is priced at US$14.99 on Steam, this is an incredible bargain for the gameplay that it offers. It is a very solid game overall.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Game released on September 17, 2021 on the PC (Steam)
Developer: Team Good Knight
Publisher: Doublethink Games
Note: The developers are still improving the game even though it’s officially released. They do listen to players and see what they can do to improve the game experience.