First impressions are important. If you show up for a blind date with a black cape on, your greased hair combed back and your fangs sparkling in the candlelight, chances are your date will get up and leave (unless they’re into that sort of thing). No, don’t worry, the first episode of Knights in Shining Armor: Our King’s Tale isn’t another one of those vampire games. My point about first impressions still stands though – when I tried to run the game full-screen, it didn’t work. Fortunately, the option to run the game in windowed mode gave solace, but as a first impression, it was less than optimal.

The game redeems itself very quickly however, making a smashing second impression with its graphics. Knights in Shining Armor is a 2.5D game, featuring 3D characters against 2D backgrounds. A common pitfall of graphics of this type is that characters don’t blend in well with the background, but there’s none of that here. The character models, which look very nice, mesh with the game world almost seamlessly, and I found the whole thing to be visually pleasing (although there’s no accounting for taste).

As good as the game world looks, there are still some flaws in the graphics department, the most serious of which is that characters don’t move their mouths while speaking. It took me a while to figure out who said what during the opening scene. Another, perhaps trivial, shortcoming is the dialogue font, which looks really bland compared to the richness of the game world. A custom font would not have been amiss.

As far as subtitles go, we again arrive at a major pet peeve of mine: spelling and grammar errors. I realize that deadlines are tight, and checking subtitles is often at the back of the queue, but really, if games are to be taken seriously as art, the literary aspect has to be taken care of properly as well as the graphics. That means no mixing of their, they’re, and there, it’s and its, you’re and your, et cetera. I wouldn’t be bringing this up if Knights didn’t have a bit too many errors in its subtitles for my liking.

Despite the textual errors, the writing itself is good. The script is funny, and although a bit verbose, it’s still enjoyable. The voice acting, especially the lead actor’s performance, is full of character, taking the writing to an even higher level. It’s rather unfortunate, then, that the sound quality of the female voice actor’s recording is sub-par. Little things like that can mean the difference between an okay game and a good (or even great) game. The sound quality of the music on the other hand is crisp, which is a good thing, because the music is great to listen to and adds a lot to the atmosphere of the game.

Now, let’s move on to the core of any adventure game: the puzzles. Some games feature so many puzzles that said core could be compared to that of a uranium atom, others are a bit less heavy on puzzles and are more akin to, say, the core of an iron atom. The puzzles in the first episode of Knights are more like a helium atom though.

There are hardly any puzzles here. If you didn’t know better, you’d think you were playing an interactive movie at first. Then, just when the game lulls you to sleep, it throws a puzzle at you, but don’t get too excited – it’s just a sliding puzzle. There’s nothing inherently wrong with sliding puzzles, but I’m not too fond of them, especially in an adventure game, where I expect more inventory and dialogue puzzles. When the game did throw an inventory puzzle at me, I was so caught off guard that I couldn’t figure it out, even though it turned out to be not too difficult in the end.

With that out of the way, I want to tackle one more thing, and that’s believability. The game, especially through its script, does an admirable job of creating a rich and genuinely interesting fantasy world. It’s such a shame that some of the graphics completely destroy the illusion. For instance, there’s a Qur’an lying around, and some leaves you pick up happen to be shaped just like marihuana leaves. Perhaps there’s an explanation for this that I’m missing – is there an Islamic-Rastafarian cult at work here? – but if not, it gives the impression of sloppiness, and worse, it breaks immersion.

In the end, this single episode is a bit short to pass a definitive judgement on Knights in Shining Armor: Our King’s Tale. I remain cautiously optimistic after playing the first episode though, but I’d like to see some of the shortcomings addressed in future episodes. If Corbomite Games and Fluff manage to do that, they will have a nice addition to the adventure game firmament on their hands.

Jan’s Score: 3/5

Note: Knights in Shinging Armor can be bought from the Corbomite Games website.