Developer: Cyber Rhino Studios
Publisher: Cyber Rhino Studios
Platform: PC [Reviewed], Mac, Linux
Release Date: August 20, 2015
Cyber Rhino Studios is an indie studio based out of Florianópolis, Brazil, with only three members making up the development team. Gryphon Knight Epic is their first game, or at least the only game listed on their website and on Steam. Immediately, the game looks very familiar amongst the PC community, with retro styled graphics and gameplay and a heavy emphasis on mechanics, while mostly neglecting realism. However, among a genre of games that is so saturated, does Gryphon Knight Epic do enough to set itself apart?
The game opens with a small backstory of our hero, Sir Oliver, and sets the plot for the game in motion. After being a knight of epic proportion, Sir Oliver is now washed up, overweight, and only dreaming of former glory. Due to a curse that was put on his companions during his knight days, Sir Oliver must suit up once again to free them from corruption.
Surprisingly, the story isn’t as simple as many other games in the genre. It gave me a little bit more to latch onto while playing the game, knowing I had some sort of actual motivation to sticking my neck out other than saving a princess. While the game doesn’t boast a huge story arc, branching paths and multiple endings delivers a slightly (and I do mean slightly) more complex story was a nice addition to see.
Gryphon Knight Epic is a classic Shoot’em up(shmup) styled game in which Sir Oliver floats through each stage on his Gryphon, Áquila. And, as you would expect riding the majestic beast, you are tasked with killing anything and everything that stands in his way. Sir Oliver is fitted with crossbow in which he fires a variety of projectiles. As mentioned earlier, there are various ways in which to beat each level. This means your skills will be tested in firing and in reflexes.
There are eight total stages, much like the Mega Man games, where the player’s ultimate goal to reach the boss and destroy him/her, providing a nice 5-8 hour experience depending on play style. Upon victory with each boss, players are awarded a new, and very unique, weapon. That weapon is something tied to the boss’ attack used during the battle and can be upgraded over the course of the game. This further ties into each level as you are confronted with tons of different enemies, each with unique attacks and abilities, keeping the gameplay fresh and new while repeating such a redundant task.
Thankfully, there is currency to collect in each level which can used in the to purchase upgrades for weapons, as well as potions and trinkets to aid in gunning down foes.
Despite all the variety within each stage, the mid stage mini-boss (while not so mini, considering they can be harder than the actual boss) is copy and pasted to every stage. While wearing a fresh coat of paint to fit which ever stage the player is currently in, each one of them is defeated in the same way, with the same style of attacks being hurled at the player. It doesn’t kill the game, but it can be a chore after a few stages.
The game looks absolutely stunning, with every single element of a level popping out of the screen. It isn’t hard to tell that Cyber Rhino Studios paid a lot of attention to the environments of Gryphon Knight Epic. I love, as a player, to be flying through some bright, pixelated forest, and still see frogs jumping around on the ground. Other things, like the insect animations (that weren’t enemies) also gave substance to the scene as they through the air. It was never distracting and brought on more elements of immersion.
Throughout the beautiful stages, players are further immersed through the soundtrack. It’s the perfect, bit-crushed setting for the epic adventures Sir Oliver will embark on–for the most part. While the stage music is totally suitable, the boss music is severely lacking. I never felt the sense of urgency that came along with the final battle associated with each stage. The epic battle that usually ensues at the completion of a level never really felt as if it had finality to it, usually driven by the music. Half of the time, it almost seemed like the music didn’t even change, totally breaking my expectations (in a bad way) of what the boss battle would be.
The Bottom Line
Despite this drawback, Gryphon Knight Epic is still a fantastic game. It’s hard, very hard, but after fighting off the urge to flip my desk upon each death, I continued to play because it is just pure fun. Shooting countless enemies out of the air upon the beautiful backdrop is just addictive.
However, the problems in mid-stage bosses and soundtrack just hurt the experience. It’s a shame knowing that an extra month in development might have pushed this game into the same ranks as Shovel Knight.
So, I can confidently say that Gryphon Knight Epic does stand firm among other retro-indie titles. For the price, it’s really not a question of if you should pick it up, just a matter of when. The game challenges it’s players and while the experience may not be perfect, it is more than worth the time. Don’t hesitate, pick up Gryphon Knight Epic right here.