Remember the good old days, under the duvet, Gameboy in hand with the little plug-in screen light? We spent hours hunched over, squinting at its low resolution black and green screen, meanwhile giving its ‘a’ and ‘b’ buttons a pounding. But times change, and we’ve moved on too much more powerful hardware, liberally sprinkled with buttons, and screens so dense with pixels that you can’t even see them anymore! The spirit of the NES and Gameboy era lives on though, and The Joylancer: Legendary Motor Knight is, in a way, a kind of videogame time-machine
The plot is suitably ridiculous, in a similar vein to the Japanese games of old. It seems that Antoria, a land that has been decimated by wars in the past ,is again at threat from the Roselian Army of Batrathum. Without fear, a young recruit to the Motor Knight Academy, Joy Lantz decides to face off against this threat and return peace to Antoria.
Joy Lantz isn’t your typical knight though, as a recruit to Motor Knight Academy she comes equipped with divine armour and a burst arm. By using her burst arm she can pull off a number of killer moves to obliterate her enemies, but it needs power to run. She can collect crystals to power it, but in the heat of battle this might not be possible, so instead she can power it up manually. The higher her burst arm power level is, the more damaging her attacks tend to be, but, Joylancer isn’t just a hack and slash kind of game, it requires skill. Generally, it doesn’t bode well to run in burst arm flailing, instead, you’ll deal the most damage by observing your opponent and choosing the right time to strike. Doing so will result in a satisfying grapple, and will deal substantially more damage than button bashing. You’ll need to be mindful of your power bar at all times though, and make sure to top it up when you can – but in the heat of battle, this is easier said than done.
You have a decent variety of moves at your disposal, which is impressive given Joylancer‘s limited control scheme. Taking cues from the Gameboy, and NES before it, you’ll only have “A and B” type action buttons, but combining them with the movement keys allows for greater diversity; Which in itself is a tribute to the ingenuity of developers from gaming’s earliest years.
Although you’ll spend a great deal of time battling, the game also has a focus on exploration. Each level is labyrinthine in style, and it can be quite tricky to find the exit into the next stage. Exploring has its own perks, though, and you’ll find secret areas and power-ups to reward your dedication. Reaching certain areas can be tricky though, and you’ll need nimble fingers to pull off combos to reach them. In this regard, Joylancer is very reminiscent of old Gameboy games, the type that would make us rage as we mis-timed certain movements, to our peril. And while its difficulty is certainly part of its appeal, it can be quite off-putting too. It’s the type of game that a niche market will truly appreciate, whilst the rest of us tremble at the thought of its difficulty. There are 3 levels of training stages to run through before starting the game proper though, so be sure to play through them a few times.
The visuals and music are old-school too, with a gameboy-esque appearance and fast-paced chiptune soundtrack accompanying the action. Visually the game is dated, but in a charming way that mixes new animation techniques with old 8-bit style graphics. The soundtrack is no slouch either, and while, at present, the soundtrack is limited, it’s got enough pep to keep you immersed in the action and on the edge of your seat.
If you’re in the mood for something new…err old, and can handle the challenge, pick up The Joylancer: Legendary Motor Knight on Steam Early Access.