Backflip Studios, www.itunes.com/au
Fun, enjoyable gameplay
Large volume of ads; in-app purchases may put some gamers off
Free; $0.99 in-app purchases
Strike Knight looks to recreate the puck bowling game you might find down at your local tavern. And it does a pretty good job of it, from the gleaming wood of the playing surface to the neon bar lights in the background. This iPhone offering from Backflip Studios – and its iPad counterpart, Strike Knight HD – doesn’t exactly push the envelope for iOS gaming. But both versions of Strike Knight offer up a decent degree of fun, if you’re either willing to put up with a lot of ads or pay for the privilege of making those ads go away.
Gameplay in Strike Knight couldn’t be simpler: Use your finger to slide a puck across a wooden tabletop toward ten pins. At the far end of the table, lit-up numbers flash just above the pins. These are the points you pick up if you record a strike (knocking down all ten pins in one turn) or a spare (knocking them down in two turns); fail to record either and you’re awarded only a meagre amount of points for the pins you do manage to knock down.
The game’s scoreboard also features the titular Strike Knight, an animated figure who plays air guitar to celebrate your bowling successes and shakes his head sadly to mark your defeats. He also praises your strikes and mocks your misses, though in a gravelly roar that makes it kind of hard to figure out what the Strike Knight is saying. (I think I’ve heard him say things like “Impressive” when I’ve picked up the spare and “Come on” when I’ve missed pins – it’s like being taunted by someone in the Witness Protection Program.)
Strike Knight looks to liven up its basic gameplay with achievements that you can unlock with feats of bowling skill – picking up the seven-ten split, for example, or bowling an entire game without any open frames. The game also features a pass-and-play multi-player mode, in which up to four players can compete to rack up the highest score. You can’t challenge opponents over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, alas.
Bowling for dollars: Strike Knight is a fun-if-basic puck bowling game that can feel a little squeezed by banner ads in its iPhone form.
Fun as Strike Knight can be, it’s not exactly the most demanding game you’ll find in the App Store, and repeated play can remove what little challenge is there. During my tests, I figured out the best way to pick up the seven-ten split, and I can now pull off that nominally tricky shot with surprising regularity.
Strike Knight is a free download (so is the iPad version), but the price of admission is in-game ads – a lot of them. The iPhone version of the game sports banner ads on the top and bottom of the screen, cutting into the device’s limited real estate; the iPad app features a single rotating banner ad at the top. Anytime you launch the app or start a new game, you’re served up an interstitial advertisement. The rotating banner ad can be problematic on older iOS devices – playing the game on my iPhone 3GS, I spotted a considerable lag in gameplay every time the banner ad changed. (To be fair, this problem didn’t occur when I tested Strike Knight HD on my original iPad.)
If all this proves to be too much for you – and I’m normally tolerant of in-app ads – you can pay $1 via in-app purchase to remove all traces of advertising. I recognise that the free-to-play approach gives developers a way to get their apps in front of the public, and I believe app makers should be able to make money off their efforts. Still, the approach to ads in Strike Knight feels intrusive, and I wonder if the game might be better served by charging users that dollar upfront.
These criticisms aside, Backflip Studios deserves a lot of credit for some of the graphic details in Strike Knight. And as basic as the game may be, this casual game’s enjoyable look-and-feel and its easy-to-use controls make it a decent way to pass the time.