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Developer: Namco Networks America
Price: FREE
Version: 1.0.1
App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS
Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★½☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★½☆☆
Playtime Rating: ★★★★☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

Knights are more than a little romanticized these days. Well actually since practically ever. I blame Hollywood. Anyway, lots of people no doubt dream of what it might have been like to be a knight. Saving damsels, fighting for honor, and whatnot. Which is probably why NAMCO BANDAI decided to release Knights Arena, a freemium iOS game that lets players act out their medieval fantasies. So long as they involve riding a horse along a set path over and over again, anyway.

The whole point of Knights Arena is to train and fight up the ranks in order to become the best knight in the land. Players can equip their custom avatar with a number of armor pieces and weapons, both for show and for efficiency. They can also do odd-jobs for the townsfolk, so long as it involves riding a horse in some fashion. However the arena is where all the real magic happens. This is where players take on other players in order to attain more honor and cash.

As much as most freemium games tout customizable characters, very few of them allow players to see them in motion. Not so with Knights Arena. Rather than staring at a static image, the avatar (and its glorious wardrobe) is visible to both the user and their opponent as they square off. If the horseback archery battles get to be a bother, there’s also the option to mess around with chopping up fruit or jumping over obstacles to keep things moving. There’s a decent amount of content to be found here. It’s just a shame it’s not incorporated into an interesting game.

And that’s my biggest issue with Knights Arena: it’s just not very exciting. Every single task involves riding a horse on a rail and only the combat involves any real skill. Although the combat isn’t super great, either. The goal is to use the accelerometer to aim while tapping to fire at an opponent. One problem is the way obstacles are constantly getting in the way at the worst possible times (i.e. I line up a shot, then promptly hit a conveniently-passing stack of hay instead of the other guy). Another is the sheer pointlessness of aiming at anything other than the other player’s body or their horse. Head shots supposedly do more damage but I’ve yet to land a single one, even when in close range and lined up properly.

I’ll admit I’m not a big advocate of tilting to aim (or anything else for that matter), but even without the irritating aiming and frustrating combat Knights Arena isn’t much fun. Since it’s free I don’t see any harm in giving it a shot, just to see, but I have a hard time imagining too many people falling in love with it.

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