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Machine Knight (Android) artwork

Machine Knight (Android) review

"The Kemco Khallenge: More tolerable when the game is free."

There was a time when in-app purchases (IAP) were a cornerstone of Kemco's development strategy. To a certain extent, that's still seems to be the case, given the great items readily available (for a price) in case you decide you want to shatter any pretense of difficulty. But for a while, it was also common to encounter extra dungeons that were locked behind a paywall. And then there were a select few titles that delved completely into the realm of free-to-play.

Machine Knight is one such title. I downloaded it for free. I played through it for free. I didn't buy any items, nor did I purchase either of the two optional dungeons. Kemco games tend to be reasonably fun, but a large part of their appeal is the cost of admittance. I'd hate to blunt that by spending any more money than is absolutely necessary. And you know what? For a completely free game, Machine Knight is, you guessed it... reasonably fun.

Hit-Point developed this particular title for Kemco. I haven't yet played any other games from that studio, but this effort is similar to what other collaborators have produced. It has a professional look to it and offers a decent amount of character customization, but falls just short of being legitimately good thanks to a poor translation and a story that takes too long to build up steam. The studio was good at the fundamentals, but it struggled to produce an experience that feels cohesive.

In Machine Knight, you control a scientist named Frain who works with his colleagues in a futuristic setting. Conversations imply that a previous experiment failed--with disastrous results--and now the team is about to send a person to another planet in an attempt to rectify that prior mistake. Frain is the chosen individual. He steps through a portal and finds himself in a typical RPG world, where a pair of female allies soon join him. When they attempt to make contact with the ruler of a nearby castle, though, robotic soldiers launch a hostile attack.

Pretty cool so far, eh? I thought so, which left me feeling disappointed when the next 10 hours or so were devoted primarily to side quests that prop up a paper-thin plot about relics and ancient kingdoms. Things picked up and finally got good again late in the game, shortly before the primary villain finally reveals himself, but way too much of the game amounts to "playing for the sake of playing," without the sense that anything you're doing will actually accomplish something meaningful.

The translation is partly to blame. It features awkward dialogue that, at times, doesn't make a lot of sense. For example, one of the other scientists is a girl who seems to have a thing for Frain. Once robots invade, she repeatedly attempts to communicate with him, swearing that she has nothing to do with recent events. Aulin and Bell, the two new sidekicks, respond to her with the sort of revulsion that one might typically see reserved for war criminals. Frain also seems to trust her much less than one might expect, considering the two of them enjoyed a friendly relationship throughout the introductory scenes. Even worse, though, is the amount of dialogue devoted to "comedic bickering," which falls flat because reading paragraphs of text all at once is a bit of an ordeal when the translation is sloppy. Also, the humor is weirder than it is amusing -- one side quest involves asking a shopkeeper if she's "interested" in a geriatric priest who is old enough to be her grandfather.

Speaking of side-quests, they take too long to complete. In each of the world's castles, you'll find a guard who provides a number of them. Most quests task you with killing certain monster types. In other words, you'll have to run around the local countryside and/or dungeons, fighting until you complete enough random encounters and defeat enough of a specific foe to meet the requirements.

People you meet in the various towns will offer other side quests, which are similarly time-consuming but far more annoying. You have to run around, talking to multiple people in order to resolve an issue. Remember what I said about the dialogue a moment ago? Yeah, lots of that sort of weird humor is found as you try to keep the various townsfolk happy. The most excruciating quest of the bunch, though, is one that actually lets you do something. In each castle, you find a key card that opens a portal in some ruins located near the first castle you visit. Your goal is to explore those ruins and follow the story of a previous visitor to the game's world. That would actually be pretty neat, if not for the fact that you have to retrace your steps through the convoluted dungeon each time you manage to obtain a new card, finding hidden passageways and navigating mazes. Perhaps that's why I liked the end game so much more: most of the tedious optional stuff was done and I could focus on the main quest.

But like I said, Machine Knight is free and fun in spite of the above issues. For starters, it's the most visually appealing out of the handful of Kemco RPGs that I've played thus far. You'll see that especially in fights, which take place from a first-person perspective that resembles a Dragon Quest game. Enemies are animated and tend to look good, with large foes to battle even during the common encounters.

There's also a fair bit of customization. Each of your three characters starts out within a particular class. After learning all available skills, they can then change to one of two new classes. This they can do twice over the course of the game to gain a variety of combat skills. Also, you may visit blacksmiths to upgrade equipment and even create new weapons and armor with materials you collect through combat and various harvesting spots. The latter requires you to first find tomes scattered around the world, though, which provides extra incentive to complete quests and to talk to everyone you meet.

The longer I played Machine Knight, the better it got. Dungeons grow longer and more complex over time, and eventually things actually get sort of challenging. The game features two difficulty settings, and even "Advanced" isn't particularly difficult, but at least it's willing to show some teeth in the final dungeons. You'll find giant lizards that boast devastating attacks, and many foes will strike twice in a single round. Unlike many Kemco games, you won't gain free HP/MP refills when you gain levels or stop at points directly ahead of boss fights, either. As dungeons become more complex, you might actually feel the effects of attrition, since you can run low on magic after regularly healing your wounded warriors. To ease potential frustration, though, you can at least exit any dungeon at virtually any time, just by visiting the menu screen.

As an additional bonus, the game also has four different endings. Which one you see is determined by your actions during a specific boss fight, as well as a choice you make after eliminating the final boss. I don't know if that's enough to provide legitimate replay value, but it was still a nice thought.

By Kemco standards, Machine Knight is reasonably robust. Completing it will require around 20 hours, if you spend time doing everything. And because you can download it for free (at least on Android), its faults are easier to overlook than usual. You'll still notice issues, since poor writing and tedious side quests abound, but the game still makes for a fun rainy day diversion...


overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (February 07, 2016)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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dirtsheep posted May 19, 2018:

I'm playing this right now, on the 3DS. I think it's quite good. Hit-Point is my favorite developer for Kemco (which does indeed, as you suggest, release plenty of forgettable games). They also did a little game called Chronus Arc. Since you say that you enjoy puzzles in your dungeons, you should definitely try that out. Dungeons in that game have block puzzles. They are simple at first, but toward the end quite difficult...there is one puzzle that I never got, despite thinking that I'm good at puzzles.
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overdrive posted May 19, 2018:

Yeah, I'm playing Asdivine Dios right now and Chronus Arc is next up on the agenda. I'm not expecting Lufia 2 levels of puzzle fun, but I'm hoping for a nice change of pace.
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dirtsheep posted May 19, 2018:

I haven't played Lufia II...I'd like to...but I'm sure you're right that Chronus Arc won't compete.

I glean that you're performing a Kemco Khallenge...I haven't read the khallenge itself...but damn, maybe you're playing too many Kemco games. I like a few of them, very much, but I sure wouldn't try to play one after another like that. In the same way that I like Big Macs, but wouldn't eat more than one every couple of years.

Now I feel like I overstated my case for Chronus Arc.

Anyway, you play a LOT of games, huh? And write a lot too. I'm impressed and intimidated.

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