Remember Joust? Older gamers may remember its launch in arcades over 30 years ago, while slightly younger folks remember it being relegated to the corner in the more dimly-lit section of an arcade as the ’90s wore on. Many have played it on the NES, and in the modern era, more have played Nintendo’s clone of it via the Nintendoland mini-game and before that, the NES version included in Animal Crossing on the GameCube. Other than the Nintendoland mini-game, and some great videos involving the NES game on Game Center CX, the formula hasn’t really been used much recently.
The OUYA’s newest must-play game LAZA KNITEZ!! gives you Joust mixed in with a shoot-em up and an overhead perspective. It may seem bizarre, but the combination works really well in practice. This is one of the most pick up and play-friendly games on the OUYA as the left stick moves you around and the OUYA’s O button (360 A button/PS System X-position button) shoots. Movement is smooth and you’ll always be able to go where you want. The goal is to face three other opponents – either via AI or local multi-player in a points battle. Whoever gets 20 kills first wins, and thus gets all of the bragging rights. It might seem like an odd concept, but it’s glorious in execution.
There’s far more strategy than meets the eye as well. You can choose to use the guns and put yourself at less risk, but you’ll also have a harder time winning due to that because of how fast the movement is and the fact that it takes a couple of solid shots to kill instead of one lancing. Going full-boar and trying to win by lancing everyone is much riskier, but also more rewarding. Power-ups enable you to gain health, unleash a laser beam the length of the screen and kill multiple enemies at once, give you a spread-shot, or a multi-shot. Power downs are thrown into the mix that will stop your movement and force you to just spin around, although with this, you’re given a more powerful weapon. Another item you’ll want to avoid reverses your directional movement, so be sure to pay attention to what’s going on and resist the temptation to grab everything you see. A Super Mario-esque yellow block with a question mark could also be anything – EVEN A BOX, and can net you some big ones or set you up for a string of losses via the power-down.
Single-player is available with bots, but LAZA KNITEZ shines brightest when other people are playing as well. Then, you can hear them curse a blue streak as you eviscerate their pink knight with your blue lance. They’ll swear revenge, maybe get a lucky shot in, and hope for a kill streak. Just like an FPS, those are the most rewarding goals to achieve, and while online multi-player would be nice, the game doesn’t feel worse for lacking it. So much of the fun here is like the arcade games of old, only without a pile of nasty quarters and sticky soda residue on the machine.
LAZA KNITEZ is a visual throwback with a really bright color scheme with smooth movement despite limited animation. The game may not look like the most modern thing out there, but for something meant to evoke gaming’s older days, this style works perfectly and it doesn’t look bad — just old. That style works here thanks to how vibrant it is, so the end result is a visually-pleasing game. The music is composed in real-time by the in-game blasts and lance attacks, so it’s a bit weird in that regard. You can’t quite hum the tunes, but they’re enjoyable to listen to and each power up leads to a separate sound effect. It’s a different approach that works for this particular game. The explosion effects are satisfying and going through someone with the lance feels as visceral as one could expect given that it isn’t a gory or violent game.
Like everything on the OUYA storefront, LAZA KNITEZ!! is free-to-try. This game’s model allows you to play one game per day free, and it can be either a single or multiplayer session. Multiplayer is local only, which may be a bummer for some, but I’ve found that this kind of fast-paced game meant for short sessions is perfect for those looking to check out something new without having to dedicate a lot of time to it. At only $5 for the full game, it’s an easy recommendation for a purchase given how replayable it is. Online play would be nice, but the game doesn’t hurt much without it and given how quickly play sessions can swing from one person to the next, you’ll definitely get your $5 worth after a single night of regular play. If you’re old enough to remember the days of arcades, you’ll want to buy this, order some pizza, get some beer and have a blast with friends.
Platform: Ouya (Android)