Some strange evil has begun to creep back into a land you once defended. Setting out to find your old comrades and defeat whatever new threat befalls the kingdom you feel that something is not right. They are all working against you, noble warriors now turncoats, under some very suspicious circumstances. It’s up to you to discover what could have caused this and to once again save the day, along with your friends.

Gryphon Knight Epic is a shoot-em-up (shmup) currently being developed by Cyber Rhino Studios. As with many indie studios these days, they are running a Kickstarter to help further develop and perfect the game. The question is, is it worth funding?

So far, it seems to be a good mix of cliché and originality. Using enough of the age-old plot to set up context, but keeping an air of mystery to get the player invested works well for this title. Everything is easy to understand, the menus are simple and the world is quickly established. You get enough background on the first few stages to make you curious about just what has happened to this land.

Clearly these mosquitoes are the guilty party!

Clearly the mosquitoes are the guilty party!

Gameplay wise, things are solid. You can use WASD or the arrow keys to move around and x, or the mouse, to shoot. Continuous standard fire is your primary attack and you can switch between secondary weapons that are heavy hitters against the hoards of enemies you’ll encounter. You can also turn around and backtrack through levels, something that will likely be interesting once multiple paths are introduced.

Enemy patterns are pretty standard. You will have to dodge through a spray of enemies and attacks. Currently, there is no bullet hell level of insanity. The bosses also show a lot of promise, giving a different challenge to the player compared to traversing the levels. So far, the standard shmup boss style has been implemented without a hitch. The concept of duel-based bosses in the future feels fresh and exciting, especially as the player will be rewarded with their fallen foes mount.

Overall, the game feels more akin to a 16-bit era production than many modern shmups, which is why the game has pixellated graphics and music reminiscent of the era. Graphically, this game is reasonably impressive for an alpha. The backgrounds are full of little details, but not distracting from the game play, and there is promise of more of this to come. The character sprites for Sir Oliver, and his steed, are clear and distinct, harking back to Ghouls and Goblins design-wise. Some of the enemies look a little unpolished, but this is to be expected at this point in development. Animation as a whole is smooth, with only a few stiff enemies here and there.

For a shmup, Gryphon Knight Epic is an ambitious and refreshing project. Its influences are clear and the team at Cyber Rhino Studios are obviously trying a few new things with the genre. The lowest price for getting the game as a Kickstarter backer is $10. So, is it worth it? If you are a fan of the genre, it comes highly recommended as a somewhat lighter and interesting title that is equal parts intriguing and entertaining.

Just stick with it through the mosquitoes. It gets better, I promise.