Soul Knight (Free) by Zeyang Li is a roguelike dungeon-crawling bullet hell shooter game that is similar to the likes of The Binding of Isaac, Enter the Gungeon, and Nuclear Throne. If you enjoy frantic roguelike shooters like those mentioned titles, then Soul Knight is definitely one that you must add to your mobile game collection.
Over the past few years, roguelike games have gained immense popularity, especially on the mobile game space. For those who aren’t familiar with the genre, roguelikes are usually dungeon-crawler type games that feature procedurally generated levels, turn-based or bullet hell gameplay, and perma-death of your characters if you die, so the next run involves losing your progression and starting over from the beginning. While these types of games are not everyone’s cup of tea, I personally love them because they always bring in a new experience and I love the crazy action that the shooter style games tend to have. When I heard that Soul Knight had hit the App Store after a bit of a delay, I was eager to get my hands on the game since I love roguelike shooters as a way to detox after a long day. I’m so glad that the game has finally arrived, because it’s definitely one of the better roguelike shooters you can grab on the App Store.
Soul Knight features a gorgeous retro and pixelated art style that will make old-school gamers feel right at home. Despite the pixelated aesthetic, the game is full of finer details like textures, dynamic lighting, and shadows when they’re necessary. The color palette ranges from dark and gloomy tones in the dungeon rooms to bright and vibrant hues for bullets and character sprites, which are all rendered beautifully. Animations in Soul Knight are incredibly smooth and fluid, so I had no issues with lag on my iPhone 7. To top everything off, there is an awesome chiptune soundtrack that will certainly bring a smile to your face as you maneuver your way through stray bullets and lay waste to your foes through a wide arsenal of possible weapons. The sound effects are also delightfully quirky, so I recommend playing this game with the sound on and a good pair of headphones if you can. The developer has knocked it out of the park with Soul Knight’s visuals and audio.
As with other roguelike bullet hell shooter games, Soul Knight features randomly generated dungeons that will never be the same thing twice. There are no level select screens and each run has you starting from the beginning, trying to best your own previous record. The goal is to get through each dungeon by clearing out all enemies in each room and reach the portal that takes you to the next level, at which point you can select a random upgrade for your hero. One of the best things about Soul Knight, though, is that even though it’s a free game, there is no energy system or ads whatsoever, so you can play the game as much as you’d like without any interruptions.
However, before you start a run, you’ll be able to select which hero you want to use from the main room, though only the knight is available at first. To unlock the other characters, you’ll have to accrue enough coins by playing the game, as they all cost a different amount and also have their own unique abilities that can help you out in battle. There are also some characters that can only be unlocked through in-app purchase, such as the Vampire and Engineer, but considering how good this game is for the mobile platform, I would say that it certainly does not hurt to throw a few bucks to the developer for awesome characters. If you’re curious about what each character’s special skills are, you can tap on them from the main room to view their ability description.
Controls in Soul Knight are simple, straightforward, and intuitive. Before you get into the real game, there will also be a brief introductory tutorial that explains the basics to you. Essentially there is a virtual joystick in the bottom left corner that you can reposition anywhere on the screen with a tap, and there are three buttons in the bottom right corner: the aim/attack joystick, special skill, and weapon switcher. If you’ve played dual-stick shooter games before, then the two virtual joysticks will feel natural to you. Soul Knight does include an auto-aim functionality that makes it easier to hit your targets, which is nice.
Each character’s special skill can be used with a tap, but then has a cooldown period before it can be used again, which you can see in a glance thanks to the button’s charge gauge. The weapon switcher lets you switch between two weapons, which can be found in chests that you break open and collect while tossing out the previous weapon with the interact button (the aim/attack joystick converts into an action button in certain situations like picking up loot or interacting with NPCs). Your hero’s stats, such as health and defense, are in the top left corner, so make sure to keep an eye on it if you don’t want to die.
Another control option for the game are MFi controllers, if you happen to have one laying around. I did try and use my new Gamevice controller with Soul Knight, but it was not as responsive as I had hoped. I’m not sure if this is just a compatibility issue with the Gamevice itself, but your mileage may vary with other MFi game controllers.
As you make your way through the dungeon rooms and dispatch your foes while avoiding their attacks, you’ll be able to find goodies like chests and other breakable objects that may get you more coins. There are also some NPC heroes that you can come across, and these guys can be hired to fight alongside you for a price. You can also have a companion pet that accompanies you wherever you go, also helping you take out the baddies.
I’ve only really just started Soul Knight, but so far I’m loving the game aside from the iffy Gamevice controller support I’m experiencing. Hopefully the support for Gamevice gets optimized in a future update, because this is the type of game I would prefer physical controllers for. Anyway, Soul Knight features awesome pixel art, lovely chiptunes and sound effects, intuitive and responsive touch screen controls, and challenging gameplay. And the fact that it’s a free game with no ads or energy system is pretty rare, so I will surely be purchasing a few extra IAP heroes in the near future.
I highly recommend checking out Soul Knight if you’re looking for a crazy fun roguelike dungeon crawler and bullet hell shooter in one. You can find Soul Knight on the App Store as a universal download for your iPhone and iPad for free. There are in-app purchases.