Arrow in the Knee

Let it be said that I can be shallow.  No matter how bad a game looks, I can be won over by cover art that warms my heart.  And nothing is quite as heart warming as the cover to Arrow in the Knee.

Oh stop crying. Serves you right for running in front of a dude shooting arrows trying to protect your ass!

Beautiful, isn’t it?  Of course, if you were actually encouraged to shoot those annoying bitches in the knee, the game would have been ten times better.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Arrow in the Knee is a wave shooter where you stand atop a castle, firing arrows at various baddies that charge you.  The hook is that if you hit one of the basic enemies in the knee, they join your side and help you defend your castle.  It’s an interesting concept, but failed by some sloppy execution.  I could never quite get the hang of the aiming, and would have offered up the soul of my first-born (which I never plan on having, but it’s the thought that counts) for a cross-hair.  Not offering one, even as a paid power-up in the game’s shop, seems like a gigantic oversight akin to a zookeeper leaving eucalyptus-flavored rat poison inside the Koala pen.

Knee in the Arrow really has the look of a bad XBLIG, but sometimes the really bad-looking stuff can surprise you.  I’ve been caught off guard by the quality of games like Don’t Feed the Trolls, The Cannon, and Asphalt Jungle 2 in the past, and Arrow seems like it should join them in the “surprisingly fun” camp.  It doesn’t, but it comes close.  There’s a wide variety of enemies, items to purchase, and arrows to fire.  So why didn’t I like it?  Well, part of it is those bad graphics, which contribute to the difficulty in aiming, but also make it hard to distinguish between what type of arrow you’re firing.  Some of the enemies get too spongy and attack too fast for you to reasonably defend yourself.  The Dragons, for example, knock out one floor of your castle every time they attack.  You’re supposed to use ice arrow to defend yourself, but their bullets move too fast and realistically you’ll only have one shot to actually hit the fireball.  Because the aiming never feels quite right, it’s sort of a crap shoot to actually hit it, leaving you better off unloading arrows directly into the dragon and hoping you survive the round and can hire guys to fix your castle.

I didn’t get a chance to play this four players. It probably takes the sting out significantly. Having said that, try convincing YOUR friends to play an Xbox Live Indie Game called “Arrow in the Knee” that looks like THAT over Borderlands 2. It’s harder than it sounds.

If Arrow in the Knee was more aim-friendly, it would at best be a tolerable little wave shooter that you would forget about as soon as you shut off the console.  Don’t get me wrong, there are things I like about it.  The whole “kneecap an enemy to get them on your side” bit works.  Well actually, you don’t even need to shoot them in the knee.  The foot seems to work just fine, and thank God for that, because otherwise I wouldn’t have had anyone switch teams for me.  But as a hook, it doesn’t seem like it’s enough.  As far as I could tell, only one type of baddie switches teams if you kneecap them.  It’s not enough.  The hook is a good hook!  So why limit it to the most basic type of enemy?  It’s really disappointing.  Imagine if the Wright Brothers stopped at “let’s just put one wing on this thing and see what happens!”  That’s what the developers of Arrow in the Knee did.  They also gave me the false hope that kneecapping people really does get them to switch teams.  My apologies to Miami Heat fans.  I was hoping to get LeBron to join the Warriors.

Arrow in the Knee was developed by Monday Night Games

80 Microsoft Points buried many hearts with wounded knees in the making of this review. 

I’ve never actually heard of the meme Arrow in the Knee.  And I played a LOT of Skyrim.  I need to pay more attention to these things.

 

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About Indie Gamer Chick
The most read Xbox Live Indie Game critic in the world.

3 Responses to Arrow in the Knee

  1. You’ve never heard the arrow to knee meme in Skyrim? Talk to any guard and they tell you it every second dialog :P

  2. Thanks for taking the time to review!

    We had a couple dozen people playtest the game – all sorts, from Halo junkies to people who had never touched an Xbox controller in their life. Almost everyone had fun, but the players who had the roughest time were the handful of people who had difficulty aiming and were playing single player. It sounds like that was your experience, so I’m not surprised you got frustrated. A reticle and glide path would be a nice set of training wheels, but we didn’t have enough players struggle to that extent with aiming to make it seem worth adding.

    I agree, having different types of baddies do different positive things for you when you kneecap them is a strong gameplay idea that came up several times during development. Ultimately, it didn’t fit into our time constraints though, and we had to settle for getting a triple score bonus when you shoot other enemies in the knee. C’est la vie.

    • I think it’s worth pointing out that the majority of XBLIG players will be playing solo, so if the people who have difficulty with your game are those very same lone players, the issue needs serious consideration.

      Imagine a Call of Duty, Battlefield or Halo where the developer said “yeah, we know some players have problems, but only the ones who play multiplayer, so we didn’t change it”. That’s the bulk of your market! In XBLIG circles, single player is not only most of the customers but also the majority of the indie press.

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