Kickstarter Interview: Grapple Knight is the retro, 2D, platformer fantasy from your childhood

If you’re like me and have been longing for an old-school style, 2D platformer that pays tribute to the Golden Age of the Super Nintendo, look no further. Grapple Knight is a project being created by the Red Knight Games team, and it's currently seeking funding on Kickstarter. In this game, you’ll play as the rising hero Jouren as he battles his way through numerous foes and obstacles to defeat the evil Alchemist. Armed with his trusty axe, grapple power, and spirit guide, you’ll be trudging through this retro-influenced world with the best of them.

With influence from 8-bit and 16-bit games from the late 80s and early 90s, the devs wanted to make a game that honors the titles they grew up with. Influences for Grapple Knight come from classics such as Legend of Princess, The Iconoclasts, and Dustforce. When designing this project, they wanted to create a game that felt like it belonged in this era of gaming. Why a platformer? Simply put, they wanted to make something everyone would find familiar. Link’s Hook Shot ability, specifically in Super Smash Brothers, was enough to inspire the team’s lead to create a game where a similar means of transportation would be the backbone of the project.

The blue haired stud is our hero, Jouren. After an attack by the Alchemist, Jouren stumbles upon the ancient grave site of a great knight, weapon master, and legend – Stroud. Thanks to his armor and weapon that can take any shape, Jouren sudden finds himself with the tools that can combat evil and help him take his revenge. Through defeating bosses and finding Knight Shines, our hero can gain new abilities and power to take on more difficult challenges and foes.

On Kickstarter, you have the opportunity to check Grapple Knight out, play the demo, and fund the project. While you’re at it, why not support it on Steam Greenlight? Besides the major computer platforms, Red Knight Games is looking to bring their game to the consoles and handhelds. The team is current in talks with said consoles. Check out the game, interview below, and Kickstarter!   

What exactly is Grapple Knight?

Grapple Knight is a retro-inspired fast paced 2D platformer. The hero of this tale is Jouren, who is on a quest to free the land from its reign of terror by the evil Alchemist. Jouren is accompanied by a spiritual companion, Stroud, as he guides Jouren through a myriad of dangerous environments and creatures that will stand in his way. With their combined efforts, Jouren has an arsenal of abilities available to him such as nimble acrobatics to jump, run, and slide at fast speeds while using a magical axe to clear his path of foes, and of course, the spirit grapple, all of which he will need to surpass his adversaries.

Where did the idea for Grapple Knight stem from? How long have you had a project like this in mind?

All the team members of Red Knight Games grew up playing games from the 8-bit and 16-bit eras, so when we came together to work on Grapple Knight, I think we all knew in our hearts that we wanted to do a game that was a love letter to all that amazement and wonder we experienced as kids. We thought it was time to try and give something back to the era that treated us so well.

As for the idea for Grapple Knight itself, that is a much more random story. We knew we wanted to create something that felt like it belonged in that era of the late 80's and early 90's and thought that a platformer would be a good place to start as it was something that everyone was familiar with. It couldn't be just a generic platformer though as we needed something to help set us apart. The team lead, Gonz, always enjoyed playing Link in Super Smash Bros and liked the concept of the hook shot move as a combat mechanic so he suggested "what if the hero had a grappling hook that he could use to grab enemies with?", and everything just kind of evolved from there.

What games inspired you for this project?

Whenever people look at our game, they always make comments about how much it reminds them of games like Bionic Commando, Rygar, Castlevania or Mega Man, which is great! Because it was completely unintentional. We didn't want to emulate anything or have the game feel like a re-skin of another easily recognised game, so we avoided spending too much time looking at any one game and instead we made sure to only look at the feel they tried to convey through their gameplay.

If there were any games that certainly inspired us to try and be better developers they would have to be games like, Legend of Princess and The Iconoclasts by Konjak and Dustforce by Hitbox Team, a fellow Aussie team like ourselves. Each game felt so immersive in its own unique style and was so amazing and fun to play that they compelled us to get back to our computers and keep working to make Grapple Knight better.

I like the idea of putting a free playable demo out there so people can get a taste of the project. What will players experience in this demo?

We want the demo to be a vertical slice of the game, so it will include a complete stage with the two act system, all of the major actions you will be performing throughout the game and a boss fight. We feel that this will help give people playing the demo, the clearest picture of what to expect from the rest of the game and we are currently working towards providing that for all of our players.

Grapple Knight Grapple

What can you tell us about Jouren? Who is the friendly ghost that is spotted near Jouren?

The kingdom our game is set in is fuelled by a great and powerful source of energy that allows the kingdom and its people to thrive. Hungry for the untapped power this energy source would hold, the Alchemist lay siege on the unsuspecting kingdom. Jouren was born into a nomadic group of people, who fled to the forest outskirts of their Kingdom when the evil Alchemist attacked with his army of twisted creatures. Jouren was gifted with latent magic abilities since birth, and because of this energy within him independent of the kingdoms energy source, he was always happy and energetic, a stark contrast to the rest of the survivors who are dealing with day to day living, having lost their home. As he was helping the nomads gather materials, they were split up when a rampaging boar like creature came stampeding towards them after having travelled too close to the now run down Kingdom.

Jouren found himself split from the group after the attack, and as he was stumbling his way back through the unfamiliar forest, he found the tomb and memorial of Stroud, weapons master and leader of the kingdom’s once great order of knights. Stroud had helped the people escape to the forest before succumbing to his fatal wounds from his encounter with the Alchemist. He was laid to rest with his greatest possession, a magical weapon that could take any shape, powered by the kingdom’s energy source, giving true meaning  to his title as weapons master. When Jouren interacted with the seemingly simple weapon hilt, because of his latent magical abilities, he activated the weapons power and the spirit of Stroud awoke from his grave. He in turn bestowed Jouren with armour and his aid; using his abilities as a weapons master to become the spirit grapple that Jouren uses to traverse the lands. Stroud urges Jouren to use these new found powers to help the people and restore peace to the land by taking down the Alchemist.

Will Grapple Knight share SNES type difficulty? Will there be difficulty settings?

We want to keep the game as true to its retro origins as possible and for all players to have the same experience. We feel that a lot of games these days do a lot of hand holding, treating gamers like fragile children. But we remember all those long and hard hours spent trying to defeat that one boss and the wave of accomplishment we felt when we finally succeeded. So in a nutshell we want Grapple Knight to be a game that is easy to pick up and understand but hard to master. You will be able to see a very clear distinction between those who are casual players and those who have truly earned the title "Grapple Knight".

What sort of attacks and abilities will players have access to?

The latent magical energies within Jouren which awoke Stroud, also gave him the ability to summon an ethereal weapon at will. Having grown up as a hunter, Jouren’s weapon of choice is an axe, and with the combined energy of Stroud’s spirit, he is also able to fire a spirit grapple, which he can use to traverse his environments with ease.

As Jouren makes his way to the Alchemist, he can encounter the memorials of Stroud’s fellow knights that can give their powers to Jouren, enabling him to go into an empowered state. This state comes forth as Jouren fights the Alchemist’s creations, purifying their essence and taking it into himself. When empowered, Jouren will be able to move faster, take reduced damage, extend the length of his grapple and even give him access to ranged projectile attacks.

Additionally, defeating boss creatures, will free the spirits of once great knights trapped within; unfortunate enough to be used in the Alchemist’s mad creations. Using these boss abilities will enable Jouren to reach areas in levels previously inaccessible as well as further improve his combat prowess. These include powers such as a wall breaker ability, an energy shield, and a double jump.

How will the grapple system work? Will it have multiple purposes other than transportation?

Jouren’s ability to grapple will enable him to interact with certain surfaces in the game that will give varying results. Each interaction is colour coded to be easily readable as players traverse through the levels. Jouren can soar, latch and swing depending on the colour (green, red, and yellow respectively) allowing a range of movement combinations. Additionally, the grapple is also used for combat as Jouren can use this ability for attaching to and then vaulting off of his adversaries in combination with performing a directional attack, allowing for an even greater flow through the levels. We also have some exciting boss encounters in the works that will make use of the game’s grapple mechanic in interesting ways. Not all enemies will be affected by the grapple of course, and this will come naturally to players as they play the game.

Grapple Knight Ghost

Do you plan on taking Grapple Knight to Steam Greenlight? How can fans help?

Yes! Getting onto Steam and being held in the same light as so many other amazing games on there is certainly something we have all been dreaming of and Grapple Knight is actually on Steam Greenlight now, you can find it here []. Fans will be able to help us by giving Grapple Knight the thumbs up to get us over the line into the top 100 games. Then it's hopefully just a matter of time before we get Greenlit for release on Steam. We are also currently running a Kickstarter campaign that people who are interested in supporting us can find here []. Of course, spreading the word about us and our presence of Greenlight and Kickstarter is also a huge help!

Besides PC, Mac, and Linux, do you have any plans to take Grapple Knight to any other platforms or consoles?

Other than the major computer platforms we would love to see Grapple Knight on consoles. We feel it would be an amazing way to finally "come home", to a place that ignited our love for gaming all those years ago. Not only that but Grapple Knight truly is played best on a controller so a lot of the new handheld and indie friendly consoles are places where Grapple Knight will be able to shine its brightest. We are currently reaching out to as many places as possible to see what needs to be done to make sure this console dream comes true.

Historian, teacher, writer, gamer, cheat master, and tech guru: follow on Twitter @AndrewC_GZ