Grab your two-liter bottle of Mountain Dew and off-brand cheesy snacks; Knights of Pen and Paper +1 Edition is a love-letter to old school tabletop dungeon crawls, told with a lot of humor and 16 bit graphics. A delightful combination of sitting around a table rolling dice and playing a Gameboy RPG, it overcomes repetitious gameplay with humor.
In the first (but not the last) bit of meta commentary on role-playing, you make up a party of people playing a game of D&D, picking their real-life background (such as the Hipster, Gamer, Little Brother, Grandmother) as well as their in-game character class. You have to start with at least two players, and can choose up to five. Your goal starts simply—get gold and gain levels by killing monsters. You can use the gold to get better equipment for your characters, or to improve your gaming conditions in the “real” world by buying snacks (which improve stats for a limited amount of time) or by upgrading the gaming room (which is more expensive, but gives permanent benefits).
The background changes to show the characters, locations, and monsters you encounter, but the players and the game master remain, often commenting ironically on the familiar tropes of the game (the generic starting village is actually named “Default Village”). As you move on further in the adventure, you’ll come across locations that reference the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon, classic arcade games, and the Steam game distribution system.
The writing of the game is sharp and funny (especially if you grew up in the ’80s), which helps to overcome the game’s biggest drawback: repetitious gameplay. Each character class has four abilities: the Cleric can heal, the Paladin is good at tanking, the Mage casts spells. You improve these abilities by spending skill points, and you get one point per level. Each level improves a skill incrementally, but there are never any new skills for a class. So, once you get your party set, you’re going to quickly figure out the best method of attack for most situations. As you get into the endgame and the enemies get tougher, it just turns into round after round of repeating the same actions, over and over.
KoPP is an easy enough game to play, if a character dies you can resurrect them after a battle by spending gold, so the only real way to lose the game is to lose your entire party while broke (you can purchase additional gold using real money), but gold is easy enough to gather by grinding in battles. There’s also a wide variety of quests that help you unlock areas and new character classes.
Knights of Pen and Paper +1 Edition was a fun, nostalgic trip back to the early days of gaming made by people who obviously look back with fondness on their rulebooks and twenty sided dice. Despite its shortcomings in terms of variety, I loved the story and hope that a new edition isn’t far off.
Category: Role-Playing Game
Developer: Paradox Interactive
System Requirements: OS X Snow Leopard 10.4, 2 GHz processor, 640×480 minimum resolution (Direct3D/OpenGL compatible card with at least 128MB), 100 MB hard drive space
Review Computer: 2.2GHz 13″ Macbook Pro, 8GB RAM, NVIDIA GeForce 9400M with 256MB of DDR3 SDRAM
Network Feature: No
Processor Compatibility: Intel
Price: $9.99 ($14.99 for Deluxe edition)
Availability: Out now