Pixelated platformers have been around from (almost) the very beginning. They are the reason a lot of us got into video games in the first place. And yet, in a time that so many modern video games are all about photorealism and wide, open worlds, the old-school look and feel still pops up now and again. It could be said that pixelated platformers are currently experiencing a renaissance, and seemingly to try to prove that point literally, in hops the passion pursuer himself, Sir Lovelot. So after the successes of games like Celeste and Shovel Knight is this the next title to grab the pixelated prize? Um… probably not.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Sir Lovelot is not a disaster. Far from it. The game is made by a small (the credit screen only showed off a handful of names) but clearly talented team. Like many of you out there, I’m fond of anything in the 8/16 bit range in terms of art style – and in that area, the game is rather pretty. The medieval theme is charming and plays well with the oddball enemies, olde-architecture, and traditional spiked-jump traps or lava pits which are all skillfully depicted in pretty pixels. That being said – it all ends quite quickly. And the lack of much variety in the four worlds (which all felt quite similar to me) left me wishing there was more. Other than the addition of water in the second world and the odd enemy – I would’ve love to see a litte more variety.
The early part of the game is a little too straightforward for my liking…
The gameplay is also pretty good. Like it says ‘on the box’ – Sir Lovelot is a precision platformer. And if like me, you’re into the genre, you’ll probably have some fun making your way through the game – especially if you stick it out until the later levels. The early part of the game is a little too straightforward for my liking. Often games like these will slowly introduce new abilities. In this one though, everything is available from the start. This isn’t in itself a bad thing. However, I did find that once I figured out the double-jump, cliff-grab, flamethrowing etc. (which is never taught to you, but you pretty much accidentally pick it all up in the first level just by doing some exploring) – it was quite easy to get the flower to the princess and breeze through the first half of the game.
I found the last world, in particular, much better. While the earlier stuff feels quite ‘samey’ and lacks creativity in how to increase difficulty, the later levels introduce the right kind of complexity. The balance between fun and challenge feels better – and dying again and again while getting that great “Oh-I-just-missed-it-that-time-I-can’t-wait-to-try-again” feeling finally started to happen. The single-screen areas and the instantaneous respawn (à la Celeste) work really well and the repetition is actually fun. Unfortunately, the hit-boxes of one or two of the enemies and of some environmental dangers did seem just a tad too big – and dying when it feels like it “wasn’t your fault” is never fun in this type of game. In addition to that – the game design wasn’t as intuitive to me as I would’ve hoped. As an example of this – often finding hidden areas (where they hide the little extras needed to 100% the level) had nothing to do with my skill but rather my own dumb luck. And I would’ve preferred it the other way round.
The later levels introduce the right kind of complexity.
It was hard to play this game and not compare it to Celeste. So much from the game, including the player’s movement, the respawns and at times even the puzzles themselves, seem inspired by it. This is not a bad thing – it’s often fun to play games that are similar to ones you’ve liked before. Unfortunately, Sir Lovelot sometimes feels like a rather cheap imitation. The movement is good – but it’s sadly a little unimaginative and remains the same throughout the game. The art style is pretty but as the game is short and the worlds are all quite similar – you can’t help wishing there was more to see. The music is fine – but just not very memorable.
It also perhaps feels a little petty but I have to admit that the game got on my bad side for another reason. There’s not much of a story in Sir Lovelot but what is there kinda irked me. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that Celeste was quite unique in that regard with how poignant and significant the narrative was behind all the great platforming. I don’t expect all my platformers to be like that. But the only info we get about Sir Lovelot is through each level’s ending animation and a few one-liners spread across the game’s menus and synopsis. I suspect they were supposed to be cute and tongue-in-cheek but I found them to be lame at best, and archaic and chauvinistic at worst. It might be something other people don’t even notice – but it meant I didn’t like the guy right from the get-go. And I suspect if it had been removed or handled better I may even have liked it more.
If you’re keen for another precision pixelated platformer – Sir Lovelot definitely scratches that very specific itch. The actual platforming is fun, if a little straightforward at first, and the game is rather pretty to look at. However, if you’re looking for anything more substantial, this 2-4 hour game is not likely to hold your interest for too long and during my playthrough, I couldn’t help but wish there was just a little more too it in almost every department.