The magnificent Super Crate Box is coming to iWotsits soon, but indie developer Vlambeer currently has no plans to release an Android version.
Which means there’s a peculiar arcade-platformer-shaped void in the lives of Xperia Play owners. A pity, since the handset’s buttons would perfectly suit the game’s fast-paced action.
But lo, over the horizon comes a knight in shining armour. His name is Muffin Knight, and although he’s dressed in a sharp-looking suit of cartoon chainmail, underneath he’s pure Super Crate Box. Which makes him both a happy and a tragic character.
Muffin for it
Muffin Knight is about a young boy who's entrusted with the task of reclaiming a mystical old fairy’s muffins. Each level is a small enclosure with various platforms and at least one pit. Muffins appear at random and it’s your job to collect them while avoiding the nasty animals that trot down from above, much in the style of the Donkey Kong barrels of old.
The trick is that - much like the beloved crates of Vlambeer’s game - the muffins impose a change of weapon (and in this case a change of character). One minute you could be firing arrows to either side as the dual-wielding Archer and the next moment you could be leaving explosive rainbow-coloured dung as the Unicorn. And you never know which one you’ll become.
As you collect more muffins more characters are unlocked, bringing a further element of randomisation and luck to your quest. You also earn XP that allows you to level-up characters, increase your health, and add special perks like double jump. In this way time spent playing is always rewarded, and there’s rarely a completely fruitless playthrough.
Poo as I do
All of this is very fun. A sense of planning and skill get mixed with pot luck in such a way that the game always manages to keep you on your toes. The Xperia Play’s buttons are used in the most straightforward and efficient way: D-pad to move, X to jump, and square to shoot. It all makes sense (except for mapping the ‘back’ function to the Select button, when it would have felt more at home on Circle. But that’s it).
Sadly, it lacks a bit of the speed and urgency of Super Crate Box. Even when enemies fall into the pit – causing them to come back again from the top, moving even faster – it doesn’t feel as hectic or as dangerous as its inspiration.
Partly this is down to the music of its predecessor being so neck-breakingly good. Partly it’s because of the cutesy aesthetic of the muffin-collecting antics. For some reason, the piglet and turtle enemies just aren’t very threatening.
There are also some lag issues. A few times while we were playing the game lagged enough to get us killed, which is never a good sign. Meanwhile, the two-person multiplayer mode is confined to local wi-fi, which is disappointing for us solo Play owners.
Issues like these are easily overlooked once you get into the swing of the game. And although there are only six levels released so far, re-playing them doesn’t get stale as quickly as you’d imagine.
Muffin Knight has a lot of daddy’s DNA, which is disappointing in one sense since developer Angry Mob could have improved on the original idea a bit more. That, and it’s never nice to see a great product get usurped just because it didn’t get to the marketplace first.
At the same time, the fact that it’s so similar undeniably does it favours in the absence of the superior Super Crate Box. When there’s something missing, it’s natural to look for a substitute. Muffin Knight may be a clone but it isn’t an evil clone - and that's what will matter to most people.