"Alright, we'll call it a draw."
Honestly? I haven’t been happy with Super Mario Party for quite some time. This saddens me because I enjoy playing party games with my family. Thankfully, we’ve been able to fill that void with a collection of third-party titles, the latest of which is Knight Squad from Chainsawesome Games.
The Nintendo eShop bills Knight Squad as a “Retro party game reminiscent of Bomberman and old school Gauntlet.” I haven’t played enough Bomberman to know if that’s a fair comparison, but don’t go here looking for Gauntlet. There’s no adventure to be had. No levels to complete. You’re just battling up to seven other players for dominance through thirteen game modes.
There is no online multiplayer here. Although all of the games require eight players, those extra slots will be filled up with bots if you can’t gather seven friends around your TV. Thankfully, you can assign the skill level of the bots. There is a single-player challenge mode, but its only use is providing something to do to improve your skills. Knight Squad is all about the local multiplayer.
Upon launching the game, you’ll get to select your knight. The choices are cosmetic only: design and color. Each knight gets a little animation when selected, but that’s it for personality; they all play the same way.
No matter the objective of the game mode you’re playing, each of the eight knights starts on a randomly placed banner at the edge of the screen and then charges into the arena for combat. In most game modes you’ll scramble through a maze of walls (or knock them down) collecting various weapons and shields as you attempt to take out the other knights with a singular attack. Knight control is simply movement and one attack button, so anyone can pick up a Joy-Con and join in the fun.
I’m not going to detail all of the game modes available here; most are pretty similar (various takes on capture-the-flag, for example), and you can probably guess what they are, anyway. The point is that almost anyone playing Knight Quest will find a favorite variation. My oldest son and I got our butts kicked by the bots when we first played the game, but then we stumbled across Juggernaut, a game mode that places a chain gun in the middle of the arena. Players must swarm the knight with the gun in an attempt to take control while the gunner defends himself. The player with the most time on the gun wins. (I recall playing a similar game with the neighborhood kids back in the day, but it involved a football instead of a gun, as everything in real life should.)
Anyway, my point is that my son dominated here, and we had a blast as I tried to dethrone him. I couldn’t. But when we moved on to the self explanatory Last Man Standing, that was my turn to shine. So, even though there’s not much variation in the included games—scramble, pick up weapons, use weapons, die, respawn, repeat—most players will still find a mode that suits their skill set.
Even the modes you’re not great at (soccer, for example) can be fun to play. The action is quick and lively, and it’s perhaps for the best that the survivor seems randomly selected when two players stab each other at the same time. Respawns are quick, too, so you’re not sitting out long (unless you’re playing Jailbreak mode, in which you have to be freed by a teammate before returning to battle).
The graphics are as light and breezy as the action, providing smooth gameplay. Their basic presentation comes across not as retro, but as arcade-like. It’s easy to distinguish your knight from the others, and maneuvering through the mazes is pretty simple. I found it easier to play on a Pro Controller than on a Joy-Con just from a comfort standpoint, but not everyone will have that option when you’ve got eight people playing at once.
The only significant drawback here is that you really need a group of people and a big TV to get the most out of Knight Squad. The action is too tiny to be enjoyed in handheld mode, and with no online option, you have no choice but to get everyone staring at the same TV. That’s the point of a party game, of course, but no matter whether we rock and roll all night, not all of us can party every day. Especially during COVID-19.
Review: Knight Squad (Nintendo Switch)
As far as party games go, Knight Squad has more going for it than you’d expect at first glance. It’s accessible, it’s frenetic, and it’s fun. The lack of online multiplayer and a worthwhile single-player mode will be easily overlooked when you’ve got your personal squad of knights seeking battle in your living room.