Developer: Blendo Games
Available On: XBLIG and PC/Mac via Steam (local co-op only; gamepads needed for Steam version)
Cost: 400 or $8.99 on Steam
When playing Flotilla, I’m reminded of a particular quote from Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game. In the novel, a young boy goes off to a military academy and, as part of his training regimen, participates in game that’s a bit like soccer/football in a zero-G environment. The boy displays a particular aptitude for the game, and before one match he tells his teammate, “From now on, you forget about gravity before you go through that door. The old gravity is gone, erased.” This ideology seems particularly relevant when playing this interesting strategy title.
The premise behind Flotilla is that you are a space captain with just seven months to live. Rather than sit around your ship and wait for the end, you decide to set out on an adventure through the galaxy. Beginning with a brief tutorial on how to navigate and move about a combat field that moves into third dimension, the player is then free to explore the planets. When you move to a planet, you will be presented with a situation and, sometimes, asked to make a choice about what to do. Will you help out the intergalactic hitchhikers, or steal their cargo and leave them stranded? Will you turn over your precious cargo to a band of ruthless space chicken pirates, or fight them off? These are just a few examples of the types of things you’ll encounter as you rove about the galaxy. Should you succeed, or fail, in your adventuring, there’s always a new adventure waiting for you as the universe and the encounters in it are randomized every time an adventure is started. This certainly lends Flotilla quite a bit of re-playability as you won’t ever be sure what awaits you the next time you play.
Space cats need your help!
Combat in Flotilla, as mentioned previously, involves not only the X and Y-axes, but the Z dimension as well. Ships fire as they move so before you're asked to input the specific location to which you want a ship to move, you must first decide what type of movement you’ll have a ship make: move farther but have a decreased rate of fire, fire more but move a shorter distance, or have both be somewhere in the middle. After making your movement choice, you then select a ship's destination by first determining the lateral movement (X/Y), then the vertical movement (Z). You also choose which enemy ship (if there are multiple) you want a ship to face. As ships are weakest at their backs and bottoms, you want to position your ships so they face the appropriate enemy vessl and fire upon it from below or behind. Of course, if you’re not careful, you could leave your ships vulnerable to return-fire, so it's best to be mindful of how the other enemy ships are moving as well.
When playing cooperatively, the second player takes control of one of the ships and is responsible for its movement. Thus the two players need to work together to outflank, outmaneuver, and outshoot the opposing enemy forces. Should one player’s ship be destroyed, the remaining player is responsible for carrying on and doing his or her best to still achieve victory. Co-op in Flotilla, then, can be a lot of fun as there’s no greater feeling than taking down seemingly impossible odds as a team. As the game progresses and you get more loot from defeating foes or as gifts from the people you meet, you can upgrade your ships, so there’s even a bit of strategy involved for you and your friend to decide how to upgrade your ships. Maybe he prefers to be a slow-moving heavy hitter while you like to be the quick-strike and retreat type that lures the enemy towards your friend’s powerhouse of a space vessel. Just like Dawn of War II, playing the game with a friend definitely makes Flotilla more fun as focusing on moving and issuing orders to just a few ships while your buddy does the same for the remaining ships leads to a far more rewarding experience.
Flotilla is Geared Towards: The strategy game enthusiast that wants to branch out into new dimensions
The Co-Op Experience: Each player controls one or more ships as they do battle against sometimes seemingly impossible odds
まもって騎士 (Protect Me Knight)
Available On: XBLIG (local co-op only)
Protect Me Knight opens with a hum of an old CRT TV, a rather pixilated image of some… thing, followed by a clicking sound and a Famicom cartridge being held up in front of a TV screen now filled with snow. A green “A” appears and pressing the button results in a blowing sound. The cartridge disappears, more clicks, and another pixilated image appears, a little clearer this time, and the process repeats. After the 2nd successful attempt of “blowing in the cartridge,” the game starts up. There are retro games, and then there are games that capture the retro spirit. Protect Me Knight wonderfully falls into the latter category.
From the 8-bit characters and soundtrack, to the intentionally (and amusingly) poor translations of instructions and character bios, Protect Me Knight is a delightful treat for those who long for the old NES days without the same level of frustration to which many of those games lead when played today. The general premise behind Protect Me Knight is that you are one of four Knights of Love (you pick from the witch, the ninja, the fighter, or the amazon) that has to protect the princess from the evil that’s beset the kingdom and, in the process, destroy it so that peace may be restored once more. Each level, you must protect the princess from all types of foes, ranging from lowly goblins to demons and dragons, by attacking them directly and by using the towers surrounding the princess. These towers initially serve as a defensive mechanism, but after they have been upgraded a couple of times, they turn into catapults that launch boulders at the swarms of foes. As you defeat foes, you’ll earn “love points” that can be used in between levels to increase your character’s attack, defense, magic, and speed stats, so Protect Me Knight also has a few RPG elements tossed into the mix.
Dragons, dragonmen, demons, minotaurs, and centipedes are just a few of the boss-type characters you'll face
If you aren’t convinced of this game’s fun already, then let me say that when playing with friends, the game becomes exponentially more satisfying. While the Knights of Loves' abilities don’t exactly work directly with one another, the abilities can be far more effective when paired together. For example, the ninja creates a princess decoy that distracts the enemy and draws their attention while the fighter tosses an axes that travels across the screen in a straight line. Grouping the enemies up by using the decoy allows the fighter to employ his axe attack more effectively. What’s more, having multiple players around makes it possible for one or more players to run around hacking the monsters up while another one mans the catapult(s) and unleashes aerial doom upon their foes. With four difficulty levels, players looking to increase the challenge for themselves won’t be disappointed.
Simply put, Protect Me Knight is one of the best retro games I’ve played in a while and the inclusion of four player co-op completely throws me back to the days of gathering around a NES with my friends to play Contra, Battletoads, or Gauntlet.
Super Happy Bonus Extreme: For those interested in truly reliving the 8-bit era of gaming, Ancient has a do-it-yourself box art graphic!
Protect Me Knight is For: Anyone who enjoys playing games (and particularly those who grew up playing the NES)
The Co-Op Experience: You and up to three friends choose from one of four Knights of Love then set off to protect the princess and save the kingdom from the forces of evil