Knights of Pen & Paper, a new mobile game for the iPhone and iPad, is a fairly unusual role-playing game (RPG) that’s also a lot of fun. Like most games in the genre, there’s a simple interface which you use to decide the actions your characters will take, travelling to different settings and facing enemies in battles. The outcomes are not determined by the speed with which you can hit the right buttons, but by choosing the right options from a menu.
What makes Knights of Pen & Paper stand out is that it’s a game about playing a game. You’re not controlling these warriors and wizards. Instead, you’re controlling a group of friends who have a pen and paper Dungeons And Dragons-style gaming session.
You don’t just control the gamers, you also control their characters, so you’re really playing a game inside a game about gaming, which is a little metaphysical, but allows some truly unique humour to shine through.
This does more than just allow Knights of Pen & Paper to make a few clever jokes though; the developers have woven the idea into the gameplay itself in a manner that is intelligent and unusual.
While the players are sitting around and playing their game running the lives of their characters, you’re also running their lives—so you can order a pizza, or buy a Pepsi in the first layer of the game, which can lead to bonuses in the campaign that the players are running.
Since both the game and the campaign use a shared currency, you have to plan your spending strategically. For example, do you spend your gold on buying a goblet, which lets you add more gamers to your table, or on a suit of armour for the gamers’ characters? A balance of both is needed to get results, but there’s no “right” approach.
At the same time, a satisfying part of the game is that both layers have their own pay-off—the players themselves are funny and make jokes and references to the real world, while their characters are involved in a storyline of their own, which is basic, but develops in a natural manner as you carry out missions such as saving kidnapped children from goblins or liberating a castle from a demonic plague.
Do some of those ideas sound clichéd? You’re not the only one who thinks so, because some of the players on your table are also pointing that out, to the annoyance of the rest of the group.
Both layers of gameplay are simple—shopping for equipment, casting magic, fighting, all these actions have large and easy-to-understand icons, and the first 10 minutes or so slowly make you use different features so that you’re not overwhelmed with options.
Each player has certain perks that they bring to the game, and the characters they create have skills you can enhance by defeating monsters and completing quests. With four skills to choose from, there’s just enough strategy to keep the game interesting.
Where the game falters is in the amount of “grinding” involved—repeatedly fighting the same types of monsters to earn small amounts of experience points to become stronger, and gold to buy better equipment. Rewards for your actions tend to be quite small, making the game drag on a little.
As mobile games can be updated easily, hopefully, the developers will change the balance at least a little. Despite this, however, the game remains highly enjoyable and is worth a try.
Knights of Pen & Paper is available for both iOS and Android devices, for Rs.110 and Rs.107, respectively.