Developer: Tree Interactive
Publisher: Tree Interactive
Played on: Android
Release Date: N/A (Last updated December 15, 2014)
Time Played: 8 minutes
Paid: $0 (Free to play)
Life is an incredibly complex thing. Every day, we have hundreds of experiences, ranging from the mundane to the life-changing, and that particular set of experiences is completely unique to us. No two people ever have the exact same day at the exact same time. However, despite the overwhelming dissimilarities, our lives are more similar than we might think. All of them have the same beginning and end; the differences arise in how we get there. Many people go through a number of standard “steps” in life, as well. Most remember being disciplined by their parents at some point. Lots of people get married. Still others have children; crazies, I tell you. Our lives continually cross at these points of commonality before diverging into an abyss of personal choices. However, it is through these points that I Am a Brave Knight tells its story, connecting each dot together into a brief, yet universal narrative.
It’s pretty hard to go into the details of I Am a Brave Knight’s plot without spoiling it, but at the same time, there’s not really much to spoil. The game advertises itself with the tagline “Do you have ten minutes to live a life?”, and goes on to elaborate on how the game follows a man’s life from birth to death. That’s a pretty predictable narrative, no? I guess that’s why I spent the first paragraph on pretentious musings; the plot is simplistic, yet effective. It touches on points that most are able to relate to, whether they’re things that you’ve done, have yet to do, or have resolved to never tackle. Perhaps it’s because of this universalness that the game manages to communicate an assortment of emotions through only a handful of short sentences and a cast of characters that are literally just coloured blocks with hair. I mean, was I laughing or crying along with the characters at different parts in the game? No. However, it manages to convey its story effectively through such minimal means, which is impressive.Unfortunately, it all ends up feeling a bit cliché, with a complete lack of real plot twists or anything much to really think about after the game. It’s a story that’s been told countless times in various mediums, but the difference here is that it’s done with significantly more limited resources. The running time, level of player interaction (as I’ll get to in a moment), and presentation are all trimmed down substantially. This wouldn’t necessarily be a problem if the game had something new or exciting to say, but there’s an overwhelming sense of predictability and familiarity that permeates the entire experience. In a way, I almost feel like it would have been better served by moving away from its fairly cookie-cutter story to dive into some other themes, events, or emotions.
The gameplay is equally minimalistic. All of the player’s interactions simply consist of drawing letters on the screen one by one to spell out some word. This forms the core gameplay loop of the game: the player is presented with some new scene and a letter that they need to draw. Once the letter is drawn, a word appears, along with another letter. Once the player has finished drawing all the letters, the words that have appeared spell out a sentence that describes what is going on in the scene. Additionally, the letters that the player has written combine to form some word that compliments the scene (an example being “Start” for the game’s menu). At any time while drawing, the player can click an eraser icon in the corner of the screen to clear the screen and start their drawing over. As soon as the game recognizes the letter, it accepts it and gives the player the next letter to draw. It’s a pretty slick system that works surprisingly well, allowing you to generally go through all the letters in short order. However, as is the case with many ink-to-text systems, there are some problems. Specifically, I ran into issues with ‘A’s and ‘O’s, though your mileage may vary. Thankfully, it didn’t become much more than a minor annoyance, but it was still aggravating to draw a perfectly reasonable ‘A’, have it not be recognized, and then messily scribble another down, only to have the game recognize THAT one instantaneously.The game has a very appealing presentation, with bright colours accentuating its cast of characters and environments. It really put me in mind of Thomas Was Alone, another game that used a faceless cast of blocks to tell its story. The music is also quite nice, with a vaguely haunting soundtrack that persists throughout the whole experience and somehow manages to be appropriate to every scene.
I Am a Brave Knight is yet another short, free, narrative experience in a veritable sea of them these days. Honestly, I think that that’s its greatest weakness: I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve done all this before. Maybe it’s just because the narrative is a very familiar one as a by-product of its universality, or maybe it’s just the fact that I didn’t really find that there was much in the way of a deeper meaning to it. In theory, there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m totally fine with a game just telling a simple, straightforward narrative and calling it good. However, this is something that should generally be supported with interesting, enjoyable gameplay, which I Am a Brave Knight clearly lacks. I felt like the game was trying to be so much more, particularly based on the store description, which gave me a real, “THIS GAME WILL CHANGE YOUR LIIIIIFE!!!” vibe. There’s nothing wrong with simplicity to the point of coming off as a bit generic, but it’s certainly no way to stand out. And while I Am a Brave Knight makes efforts to do so with its appealing art style, short playtime, and nonexistent cost, I feel that at the end of the day it falls a bit short.There’s a lot to life. A lot to see, a lot to do, and a lot to experience. Some of our paths tread close to one another, and sometimes they overlap. It’s these similarities that bring us together by giving us something to relate to. But it’s the differences that make things interesting.