Knight Lore Remake

DeveloperUltimate (1985)
RemakeRetroworks (2009)
Played onSony HB-F1XV MSX2+

This is a remake of a game that I had for a couple of years but had never got around to seriously playing. The only reason I wanted to dive into it was simply because it looks outstanding for an 8-bit platform from the eighties.

This is the third game in Ultimate Play the Game’s series of Sabreman games. Sabreman, who changes into a werewolf every night, finds himself in the Knight Lore Castle and must reach Melkhior, a somewhat eccentric wizard who is the only one who can save him from his ghastly ordeal. Melkhior resides in the centre of the castle and is, in fact, not that difficult to reach, but he has a cauldron and needs 14 objects to put in, in the correct order. These objects are spread around the castle. You can carry no more than three of them, so a bit of planning is needed here. The cauldron will tell you what the next item is it wants. As in most Ultimate titles of the time, reaching the end goal is a long and treacherous challenge, requiring both puzzle solving and action to be taken, meaning that each screen requires thorough planning and precise navigation.

The game uses an isometric viewpoint in a way similar to the later Head Over Heels. The game lasts for 40 days and nights, each of just a couple of real-time minutes, and at night the player’s character turns into a werewolf. In the original, the difference is in appearance only. Both forms can jump, run and pick up things just as well as the other. In the remake, nights use a much darker palette, making the game more challenging.

It’s a fun game to play, and the puzzles are usually basic. What makes the game difficult is that it is not always clear whether blocks are next to or on top of each other, because of the isometric perspective and the absence of shadows. As a result, you often miss, but that reason makes dying a bit frustrating. Another somewhat annoying thing is that some rooms contain ghosts that move around randomly and at great speed, pushing everything that isn’t fixed, such as tables and chests, with them. This sometimes results in comical situations, but it can easily cost you two or three lives if you really have to go past them.

This MSX2 remake of Knight Lore, created by Manuel Pazos and Daniel Celemín has excellent graphics, a style rarely seen on MSX and certainly of a quality normally seen on 16-bit systems. The original version had the same graphics as the ZX Spectrum version. Here’s a screenshot of the same room:

Other extras in this version are different palettes for day and night, an in-game map that shows the player’s location, rooms visited, and objects and some bug fixes. Also, there appears to be a bug added: sometimes you can only place one object in a room. That then ensures that you can’t leave an object in the wizard’s cauldron if there’s still an object in that room.

This bug seems to have been taken from the original: if you go west from the westernmost starting point, you will enter a room where there are four tables on the floor next to each other and four more tables on those tables. There are eight bombs on it. There, in the ZX Spectrum version, you can move two tables slightly forward, then move the two tables next to them to the left, and then you can pass between them without the bombs falling on you. That doesn’t seem to be possible in the MSX versions because you can’t make enough space between the tables. However, it often takes long enough for the bombs to fall down so that you have enough time to move the tables forward and just walk underneath them. If things do go wrong, you’re out of luck. There is also a variant with crates instead of tables. These crates, however, can be moved so quickly that you can’t go wrong.

It took me about two weeks around last Christmas to finish Knight Lore. Once I figured out how to do the rooms and what route to take, all I needed was a bit of consistent luck with the speedy ghosts and falling bombs to feed Melkhior’s cauldron with all fourteen objects in the right order. The game is fun, doable, not too complicated and the remake adds a lot of atmosphere.

Categorised as: retrogaming

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