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Developer:
Microids
Publisher: XS Games
Platform: XBox
Release Date: July 04, 2004

by Jason Ferguson




Knightís Apprentice: Memorickís Adventures is an adventure in Arthurian mythology. The game looks like a steal with the low retail price of $19.99, and although it's far from perfect it certainly does have some high points.


Long ago when the era of men was still in its infancy, the goddess Mab ruled the land of Avalon. As the time of gods passed, Mab refused to relinquish her throne, and called upon mighty dragons to help her. Wielding the legendary Excalibur, King Arthur led his knights into battle, with his half sister, Morganna, and the powerful wizard, Merlin, at his side.


When the smoke cleared from battle, dragons were never again to be seen in the land of Avalon. Mab was defeated, and Merlin used all of his power to imprison her essence in a magical crystal. Legend says that Merlin sacrificed nearly all of his power to do so. An era of peace followed, but evil once again began to rise. The great seals that Merlin had erected throughout Avalon to keep evil out were beginning to crumble, and dark creatures are roaming the land. You must set out on a quest to discover whatís wrong with the seals and restore peace to Avalon!


You play the game as Memmorick, Merlinís apprentice. Unfortunately, Memmorick isnít any good with magic. Instead, he yearns for adventure and knighthood. Still weakened from the battle with Mab a decade earlier, Merlin is unable to stop the dark forces on his own. So when the seals begin to collapse and goblins begin to run rampant throughout Avalon, he sends Memmorick to investigate.


Throughout the game youíll run into familiar characters, such as King Arthur, Merlin and Morganna. Although the story is based on Arthurian legend it doesnít tie strongly to it. Instead, it creates an almost new story from the legend. The story isnít horribly deep, but itís fun and interesting. Fans of Arthurian legend are sure to enjoy it!


Youíll spend much of the game gathering magical orbs that you can use to acquire runes. These runes unlock sealed off areas of Avalon, and activate teleportation devices you can use to travel. At its core the game is a platformer. Youíll travel through a variety of different lands, hurling yourself from cliff to cliff and jumping over rivers of lava. Thereís a decent variety in your obstacles, and most of the platforming is done pretty well. When youíre not gathering runes or jumping over something, youíll be fighting enemies. Sadly, combat is extremely basic with little to offer. You hit ĎXí to swing your swordÖ and thatís pretty much it. It gets repetitive and boring pretty quick, but youíll have to spend a good deal of time doing it since enemies are plentiful. I often found myself simply running past battles instead of wasting my time with the dull combat. There are no combos, and there is no Ďlock oní feature, which sometimes makes hitting your enemies a bit difficult.


Memmorick does have a few tricks up his sleeve, though. Aside from swinging his sword and jumping, Memmorick has two sword moves (a spin attack and a special Excalibur attack), two shield moves (a pound attack and a shield bash), and three jump moves (a high jump, a long jump and a double jump). There are also all the basics, like crouching and defending. The different moves added a little extra to combat, but didnít liven it up much. The jump moves are used frequently throughout your platforming, but the attack and shield moves donít really do much aside from the Excalibur attack, which youíll likely use a lot. Not to mention the battles are generally easy with very obvious patterns and no real strategy, so chances are you wonít even need most of the moves. Memmorick will get new equipment as the game progresses. Heíll have three different swords and shields that heíll carry throughout the game. Once youíve found these youíll gain new abilities. For example, once you find the Magic Shield youíll gain the two shield attacks and once you find the Dragon Shield your defense blocks all fire attacks. Youíll also find three different armors, which will increase your max HP.


One of the games coolest features is the variety in gameplay modes. Aside from controlling Memmorick like usual, you can also ride a horse slide on your shield and ride a Griffin. On the slide and horse mode you will be moving constantly, although you can control your speed. Youíll basically be trying to dodge obstacles, such as holes, rocks and thorn bushes. The Griffin mode is a little deeper, and allows you to control your spend as well as fly around in any direction. You have to fly through caves, dodging falling rocks. The Griffin is also equipped with an attack. These added gameplay modes helped to make up for the lack of the variety in the combat, and were a lot of fun!


Although the combat was easy, the platforming was actually quite challenging. There is a lot of variety in the types of platforming puzzles youíll solve, and youíll have to be fast on your feet if you hope to survive. The platforming becomes even more difficult due to the crappy camera (more on that later), but even without the camera itís still of a level of challenge that hard-core gamers will enjoy. You wonít be able to breeze right through the levels, thatís for sure. Youíll have to time your jumps right and be quick! Fortunately, the game is pretty user friendly. Whenever you die you get to respawn with full life where you died. No more having to run all the way back through a level just because you tripped and fell into some lava. I really appreciated this since the platforming was actually challenging.


Unfortunately, the platforming was hindered by a horrible camera. Not only were the angles often bad, which made platforms hard to see, but the camera sometimes didnít rotate like you wanted it to. It wasnít rare that Iíd be wandering along and suddenly fall into a whole that I didnít even see. There were other times that Iíd be stuck on a cliff for several minutes having to rotate the camera forever trying to find the next platform to jump on. Bad cameras are just a horrible thing in general, but when it comes to a platforming game itís even worse. The controls generally worked well in the game, but often Memmorick didn't stop right after a jump, which resulted in lots of falling of cliffs. Aside from that, the controls were easy to use and worked well.


Graphically, the game is a mixed bag. Overall, it all looks a bit dated, but thereís an interesting cartoonish design. Characters are well detailed and the cartoonish design fits the game pretty well. Many of the bosses are especially well done. The environments are usually pretty generic, but they sometimes provide some interesting scenery. The sound is at about the same level. The music fits each environment well, and overall is well done. The voice acting is pretty much average. Not something youíll hate or love about the game, but personally Iíd rather have voice acting of this quality than none at all. The sounds of battle are plain bad. Smashing your sword against an enemy sounds more like tapping a pencil on a tabletop. Most of the sounds arenít as bad as the sound of your sword, but since the sword noise is easily the most common, it drags the overall sound quality down. Although neither the graphics or sound in Knight's Apprentice are impressive, they're both better than you'd expect from a budget title.


The game is fairly short and can easily be beaten in less than 10 hours. Despite the frustration, though, there is something enjoyable about those 10 hours. The straightforward gameplay makes it an easy game to pick up and play, and the fact that you can respawn with full health right where you die makes it easy to overlook the camera flaws, even if they do cause you to die repeatedly. With a low price tag of $19.99, itís not a bad deal. If youíre able to live with some flaws and enjoy Arthurian legend and/or platformers, then you may want to check the game out, but itís definitely not for everyone.


Final Grade: 65%




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