Bucket Knight is a retro-style platformer from PigeonDev in which the player explores darkened dungeons to find various treasures, avoiding numerous traps (which instantly kill) and destroying enemies by shooting them whilst dodging attacks in search of the holy grail.
Expectations were not particularly high to begin with, as there have been so many game developers trying to fill the void that the original long lost 2D platformers left and it is clearly not an easy task to successfully achieve. Something that sets this game apart is that it really feels like an early 90’s game. The graphics are pixelated and the controls are limited to jump and shoot. The story line probably isn’t that important in such a simple game but it was nice to see an introduction and also watch the final animations during the end credits as a conclusion to the game. Sometimes adding too many modern elements to this genre leaves it open to much more criticism and debate, so if this was intentional (to keep it simple) it certainly worked to its advantage.
The jump and shoot buttons were not positioned as initially anticipated so that took a minute or so to adjust to. It was actually a good opportunity to have a look at how the life meter was affected by the various enemies in the game. Although Bucket Knight incorporates a fixed life meter and features some items in which to replenish it, it is also affected on a more interactive level as apparently, not all enemies are created equally! This definitely creates a sense of wanting to carefully dodge and shoot, potentially giving the player a greater sense of achievement throughout the game.
The movement is very comparable to early 2D platformers and although sometimes this is undesirable in modern gaming, it actually contributed positively towards the overall theming, drawing the player deeper into the game and requiring a little more effort or concentration. Although it is a fairly short game and the achievements unlock without any extra work, it is still very enjoyable to play and has lots of interesting items to collect, so for those looking for a bit more of a challenge, there is some incentive to replay it from this perspective. It would certainly be a game that could easily be replayed at any time, even if only for some light-hearted gaming after completion.
Certainly, it looks very simple but the levels are in fact all equally unique. Despite the similar theming throughout, it is clear that a lot of thought has gone into the design by the careful placement of objects, platforms and enemies and the way that they all interact so effectively. The enemies are distinctive as they all have their own individual character and although they gradually become more difficult to dodge and defeat, the weapon can be upgraded as the levels progress and more coins are collected so it doesn’t become challenging or tedious because of this development.
Something that is thought-provoking (in any media) when it is actually difficult to recall specific elements such as the music after completing a game or watching a movie because the experience was captivating enough to have not been distracted by any such element. Although this might be truly insulting to any musician or composer, generally it is quite difficult to achieve this balance and especially in a game that is intended to be replayed. In Bucket Knight, the level select music is probably slightly too repetitive but the music during each level is neither annoying nor especially memorable.
When reflecting upon the overall gaming experience it seems worth noting this, because sometimes a subtle soundtrack that adds to the mood of each level is actually more striking than one which repeats so frequently that you are humming it for months on end and driving yourself and everyone else completely insane! The sound effects were more prominent than the music (which probably added to this overall effect) and even though it would have been acceptable in its time, it definitely isn’t an award winning soundtrack.
It’s difficult to tell whether the amalgamation of essential game components in Bucket Knight was so carefully planned or if it just fell into place conveniently but if any of these features had not worked in harmony it would have most certainly led to a less positive conclusion.
Bucket Knight gives a unique glimpse into gaming of the past without any fancy modern upgrades like save points, perfect graphics and achievements that can only be completed by playing in sometimes seemingly senseless ways! Once again, it is not a game that will appeal to everyone and it’s definitely not for those who dislike this genre, but for anyone who appreciates a bit of nostalgic gaming it certainly seems worth giving it a shot.