Knight’s Try is The Dark Souls of PS1 Platformers
Usually, when I get offered a key for a game, it’s through Managing Editor Samuel Guglielmo. He chuckles and chortles and coordinates me playing games that are usually insanely hard. It’s some sort of low-level curse. Games become more difficult when I play them. I’m just a poor old man, being subjected to difficult games. So when I saw Knight’s Try, I was excited to play a cutesy, N64-style platformer. I clearly wasn’t up to date on Knight’s Try.
I was sitting in the DreadXP Discord, my normal haunt, and I told DreadXP Head of Production Ted Hentschke that I was going to check out Knight’s Try. DreadXP is sometimes a collaborative experience, so we were sitting in voice chat, and Ted said he’d pick up the game and play it as well. What followed was a cacophonous orchestra of cursing, screaming, and pure, white-hot anger. I guess I should formally apologize to the other community members in voice chat that day. I’m sorry for the things I said when I was playing Knight’s Try. In between bouts of furious, inhuman screeching, it was explained to me that Knight’s Try falls into a subgenre known as Maso-core. Maso-core is apparently a portmanteau of “masochist” and “hardcore”. I’ve explained that I was hollerin’, but I didn’t really explain why.
Knight’s Try is super difficult. Insanely difficult. It is a precision platformer. It’s got this almost cheery low-poly aesthetic, lulling you into a sense of comfort and security. After you’re comfortable, and you’ve checked out the opening hub area, you can jump into the game proper. At first, it’s like the calm before the storm. The first area is quaint, almost. You start out platforming across some thin branches of material. It’s not difficult at this point. You’re comfortable. After that first small obstacle, you jump over a spinning grinder (very easy), and then a blade comes from out of nowhere, killing you and sending you back to the start.
This falling blade is Knight’s Try letting you know that it isn’t easy. It’s the first real “gotcha” moment of the game. Definitely not the last. Hidden blades dot the landscape, ready to outright destroy you if you deign to forget they exist. Some might call these blades unfair, but they’re not. If you move slowly, and look closely, you can see them recessed in walls, or peeking out from behind arches. They will occasionally get you, but that’s because they’re hidden exceedingly well. They’re not invisible, though. Getting absolutely crushed by this falling blade adds to your “try” counter. Every death is a try. Thankfully, you’re not expected to beat the game on one try – though there is an achievement for doing that – and can go as many times as you’d like.
To keep you from going absolutely insane, there are checkpoints between areas. There is the concept of checkpoints, anyway. Getting to a checkpoint is like a devastating earthquake in Siberia: I know it’s bad, but I’m not there to experience it. I reached the first checkpoint of the game in 26 tries. I don’t even know if I want to discuss how long it took me to get to the second checkpoint. Knight’s Try is very good at putting you in what seems like an impossible situation, but through the power of repetition, getting you accustomed to its twisted demands. As soon as you get used to a certain obstacle, and can reliably tackle it, the cycle starts over with a new, more insane obstacle. It’s a vicious cycle.
Knight’s Try is just one of those games. I respect the hell out of it. The audacity it has to repeatedly punish me for my mistakes. Well, well, well, if it isn’t the consequences of my own actions, should be the title of the game. The punishing platforming done well is rare. You normally get a punishing platformer with bad controls, a punishing platformer with bad graphics, or a punishing platformer that’s not fun. Knight’s Try does the impossible, threads the needle, and nails the dismount (unlike most of my dismounts in the game). It’s something you don’t often see in this day and age of finely tuned shooters and walking sim horrors. Haunted PS1 is great for the PS1 aesthetic, but it’s a rare treat to see a game control exactly like a game from their preferred possessed console.
Knight’s Try nails it. I feel like it could be a Japanese-only release that just made its way to the US with a strict warning label: “This game is Japanese Mario 2 hard. You should really Doki Doki Panic“. I love it, I hate it, I want to play more of it. If you want to experience mixed feelings ranging from joy to rage, you can check it out yourself HERE.