Thanks to Sometimes You for the review code
Title: Bucket Knight
System: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Release Date: 02/28/2020
In this sidescrolling platformer, you take control of the titular Bucket Knight, who sets out on a quest in search of money in order to afford his own home! Seriously, that’s the entire plot and it’s explained via symbols in an intro stage.
Being made by the same dev behind the dreadful Awesome Pea, I’m pleased to say the production values have gone up by a lot here: the pixel art is much better across the board, and while it still sticks to typical 8-bit NES fare, it looks a lot better and obstacles are way easier to distinguish now. The only big gripe I have is that unfortunately, this game looks incredibly samey, with plenty of levels retaining the same color palette and similar layouts to the point that some levels feel like barely extended versions of previous ones. The music is pretty OK, mostly generic chiptune tracks with the odd, surprisingly good song now and then, much to my surprise.
Bucket Knight is a stage-by-stage platformer, where the main objective is to reach the portal at the end of each level to move onto the next. You jump and shoot to make your way to the next stage, and rinse and repeat. Now this is where I usually say that “the controls are really simple”, but unfortunately, Bucket Knight manages to commit a major sin right off the bat, an incredibly stupid one to boot. Namely, its horrendous control scheme.
So jump is on B, as you’d expect. So Shoot should be Y, right? No, it’s on A. This is weird enough as is, but it gets a lot worse, since the game’s way of pausing and restarting levels is rather unorthodox… Mainly in that you technically can’t pause the game at all. You can bring up a menu, but everything around you still goes, and thus you can still get shot at and die, and the timer will continue to run. This menu is where you can back out to the level select, restart the level, or buy upgrades for your weapon, and said upgrades really do help a lot out with taking care of enemies.
Except the weapons and restart feature are both horrendously buggy in so many ways I can’t even put into words, especially the weapons. So get this, you start off with a normal weapon, then upgrade into an automatic, fast-firing weapon. It should work by having you hold down Y and autofire shots, but sometimes for no reason at all, the automatic firing stops. It’s not a case of running out of ammo, since it happens at complete random in stages, and you still have a faster rate of firing shots manually, but it’s a really stupid bug that makes the automatic weapons totally worthless. Thankfully, the spread upgrade works as it should, but it’s absurd that one of the main core features of the game is just totally broken.
As for retrying the stage? Well, while you can via the menu, I hope you don’t like touching the X button, since touching that at any point in the stage will boot you back to the beginning as if you just died, with no warnings and no confirmations. This means if you’re near the end of the stage and accidentally think X is the menu button, then oops! You just restarted the entire stage. Thankfully, these stages don’t really take any longer than two minutes, so it isn’t the absolute worst, but it’s horrendous how the controls are unchangeable, (outside of the Switch’s OS) and that such a feature could be botched.
Besides that though, Bucket Knight is just OK. The levels are super short and while collecting coins can be satisfying, the buggy weapons make it tough to really find much worth in collecting, and if you manage to focus on finding the fastest route to the exits, you can clear this game in less than an hour with little resistance. Yeah, you may have to find a key to open a door now and then, but besides that, there’s nothing really special going on. No bosses, no minibosses, and really little in the way of stage gimmicks outside of instant death spikes rising from the floor in some levels. It’s a dull, buggy platformer, yet one that’s easy and short enough to finish, not much else to say.
In conclusion, Bucket Knight is a laughably buggy platformer with so much jank it’s not even funny. By all means, this should end up being one of the worst platformers I played on the Switch. Yet, compared to Awesome Pea, it’s leaps and bounds better, and somehow the core gameplay loop is just decent enough that I ended up being engaged enough to complete the entire game, which took roughly 90 minutes.
If this had a speedrun mode and fixed the awful controls, it could honestly be a decent enough speedrun title, but unfortunately, the complete lack of replay value and general bugginess of Bucket Knight make it a pretty bad experience, only really worth checking out for curiosity purposes.
I give Bucket Knight a 4 out of 10.