Gryphon Knight Epic Review | MOUSE n JOYPAD

Gryphon Knight Epic Review




Gryphon Knight Epic attempts to revitalize the nostalgia for older games piece by piece; first, with pixel art and chiptunes, then with classic bullet hell gameplay, akin to so many games that have since been nearly forgotten. But, to be truly faithful to the source material, the difficulty must be high, and the resulting frustration immense – Gryphon Knight Epic does not disappoint. However shallow it may be, the game attempts to recreate a notion rooted in the ideas and mechanics of the past, to mixed effect, often falling to the same faults as its predecessors have.


A special hero meets another special hero.

After defeating a powerful enemy, the Gryphon Knight and his pals discover a treasure trove filled with powerful magic weapons. Each hero takes a unique weapon home, except for the Knight, who instead takes a mysterious amulet that soon proves to be possibly the most useful amulet ever created. Of course, trouble brews after the heroes return home; each of the weapons has an evil nature that causes its owner to lose control and fly into a murderous range – sound familiar?

Hence, it is the Gryphon Knight’s duty to find a way to free his friends from the grasps of the weapons, one by one. The magic amulet cures the other heroes of their evil desires, but they are protected by a gauntlet of enemies that are adamant in preventing you from ridding them of evil.

As the game’s title implies, the mighty knight is accompanied by an arguably mightier gryphon, serving as the knight’s flying transportation. The gryphon cannot attack, leaving the dirty work for Sir Knight and his rusty peashooter.

Levels scroll automatically to the left or right while the knight and his steed fly around the screen in a mostly straightforward fashion. A button press will switch the direction of the knight and change the direction of the forced scrolling. Occasionally, the screen will stop scrolling, and you will be presented with a group of enemies to defeat before the game flashes a large “GO” sign with a finger pointing in the direction of more enemies. At these moments, the knight’s ability to reverse direction at any moment is useful and necessary in order to shoot down every enemy on-screen, but the direction reversal is a little wonky during the periods of forced scrolling.

Moving around the screen controls decently well but I often found myself wanting for a faster mount or more mobility options. Most of the enemies move or attack much faster than the knight can, and there is no dodge or movement option to evade enemy attacks, either. The gryphon certainly isn’t a slow poke but the frustration of repeatedly getting hit by fast homing attacks or nearly undodgeable missiles makes the movement controls feel shallow.

The stages are a gauntlet of enemies with boss battles bookending each substage, for a total of two bosses per level. A cursed hero stands as the final boss in each stage – defeating one will reward the knight with the boss’s unique weapon, Mega Man style. Seeing the weapon used by your foe during the boss fight and then taking the weapon as your own is extremely satisfying: a trophy for the victory that pays great dividends. Each of the weapons has its own unique characteristics and strategies, from a firework cannon to a tri-shot bow that can shoot through almost anything. Unfortunately, the boss fights themselves are not worth enduring even if the spoils are all cool items.
Boss encounters are presented at the end of each stretch of fodder enemies that make up each sub-stage. Every boss has a unique and relatively novel design which is great for the sake of variety and deserves high praise. However, most of the fights only inspire frustration and not anything remotely related to clever or thoughtful design.


I could not groan loud enough for the developers to hear me.

Gryphon Knight Epic wants to let you know that it is a very difficult game. It wants to let you know that more than it wants to be balanced or fair or fun or anything that isn’t in service of making the gameplay as hard as possible. Many of the boss designs reflect this philosophy in the worst way; the bosses are the epitome of trial-and-error gameplay where the road to victory is paved with confusing deaths and puzzle-oriented encounters. Imagine the frustrating bosses of your youth: the time spent, the patterns memorized, the controllers were thrown and you will understand the game’s boss encounters.

One fallen hero, in particular, requires solving a very poorly designed puzzle while dodging highly damaging attacks that seem occasionally unavoidable. I will spare the details of that specific encounter but most of the boss fights fall along the similar lines of a bad puzzle in the wrapper of a boss that can often kill quickly, depending on the difficulty setting.

Aside from these battles, the gameplay is mostly fine in the sections that feature the standard fare of enemies littering the gameplay field with projectiles of all types. In these sections, the game really shines as it shows off its deep well of character and enemy designs. Each stage features different enemies who all behave differently with different patterns and attacks. It is truly a task in a few stages to overcome the swarm of enemies before the bosses as the knight does not have much health, even on the lowest difficulty setting.
A few aids that can help the hero on his journey can be purchased from shops in the stage select screen. Coins earned in the stages by defeating enemies are spent at the wizard or item shop to buy upgrades or items that help to even the odds. The Wizard Shop sells upgrades for the unique weapons, and the Market sells various potions and Squires, small creatures that orbit the knight and provide benefits such as health regeneration. The variety of Squires is nice but most of the time the additional benefit they provide turns out to be trivial.

All of the gameplay is wrapped up in a pretty neat package with an emphasis on a retro aesthetic. Right down to the music and pixel art, the game tries its best to make sure that it drives home its source material in a manner that is almost too aggressive. The easiest difficulty setting is my recommendation for anyone who does not want to suffer through some of the needlessly difficult and frustrating parts of the game. By the same token, however, the game is highly replayable with decent stat tracking for those who want to take their Gryphon Knight Epic skills to the next level.

Arguably, the story is the weakest link, by a wide margin. Spelling and grammatical errors litter the introduction and the story far too often breaks the fourth wall in an attempt of satirizing the game’s tropes. But most of the story and humor fall flat. Unfortunately, there are just enough story bits peppered in throughout the stages that it’s hard to ignore but hard to enjoy, as well.

Ultimately, the game has too many rough edges that interfere with the core gameplay. I could only recommend this game to people who have at least, an appreciation for the bullet-hell style shooter of the forgone era. If not, this game is almost certainly not for you.