Developer: Gameloft
Price: FREE
Version Reviewed: 1.0.0
App Reviewed on: iPad 2

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★½
Gameplay Rating: ★★★½☆
Playtime Rating: ★★★☆☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★½☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

A jouster’s foe isn’t his opponent. It isn’t the lance, or the fury of the charge, or even the thunderous clash of horse and weapon and rider. A jouster’s true enemy – that subtle foe he must face every time he mounts – is his own fear. Fear makes the rider worry his horse out of rhythm. Fear makes him charge too soon, or hold an instant too long. And it is fear that makes him turn aside from his strike rather than into it, leaving his lance shattered and his body thrown to the ground. To be a jouster is to conquer your fear and to never back down.

Also, there’s apparently some rhythmic tapping involved.

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Rival Knights is an incredibly simple game. All you do is tap when the arrow gets to the green section of the bar, then swipe to line up your charge. That’s all there is to it. It’s straightforward, and honestly, it’s quite repetitive. It’s also almost inexplicably fun. The graphical presentation is gorgeous – beautifully rendered and smoothly animated. Your knight changes in appearance as you upgrade their gear, and there are many banner and insignia options.

The jousts themselves are short, exciting affairs. The sense of speed and impact that the game delivers is truly excellent, and the first time you knock a rival off his horse and watch him rag-doll in slow motion will be so viscerally satisfying you’ll jump right into the next match. Each one will burn through a seal, which acts as the jouster’s stamina, regenerating in real-time and preventing you from endlessly playing. Every joust, win or lose, earns you gold to spend on equipment and mount upgrades. Gems are the game’s secondary currency, allowing you to purchase expensive gear, instantly refill your seals, or enter some tournaments. These currencies are predictably available for purchase, but after two days of play I found myself with three times as many gems as I started with, plenty of gold, and constantly-upgraded gear.

IMG_0396IMG_0398I am having a good time with Rival Knights, which is what makes the game’s downsides so unfortunate. First and worst is the need for a persistent internet connection. I understand that there is an online component that allows you to joust against other player’s knights to earn coins and gems, but there is no reason to not allow the core game to run without being online. This inexcusably ruins the game’s potential as a truly mobile game. Also worth mentioning is its repetitive nature – once you’ve had your first joust, you’ve basically seen it all. Finally, the game is a tease that never quite satisfies your desire to play before you have to wait for your seals to regenerate.

Rival Knights is fun. It’s shallow and uncomplicated, but it provides an exciting, well-crafted diversion. If it hadn’t been designed around the accursed bully that is the always-on internet connection, it would be a welcome addition to my iPad library.


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