It's not often a game presents you with a treatise on medieval gender politics, but that's just one of the delights Wind-up Knight has in store. On the load-screen between levels, players are presented with Pretty Princess Primer Tips like "Popular Princesses bathe daily and apply deodorant" and "Always let men speak first – it makes them feel more important".
How does it play?
This is a 3D side-scrolling platform adventure, where the Wind-up Knight must dash through 50-plus levels to rescue a Princess who's been kidnapped by the eeeevil Black Knight. Our hero has to fight, jump, roll and shield himself through one peril after the next, and he's only got one life to attempt each stage.
The catch is that, as his name implies, the Knight is a wind-up automaton, which means two things; a) he's constantly moving forward, where the only thing that can make him change course is bumping into a solid object, and b) he needs to pick up special keys at regular intervals to stop himself from winding down.
With the forward motion taken care of, players have to concentrate on tapping the appropriate action button for each obstacle in their path. An added feature is collecting gold coins and secret cards scattered around the scenery, but if a player lets their greed get the better of them, the knight will expend too much energy and it's game over.
Back at the store, you can spend your collected gold on upgrades to armour and weapons, but in truth the game can be completed with just the basic items you've been given. The road to victory might be a little tougher, but it'll be much more satisfying.
Why do we like it?
Wind-up Knight is wonderful stuff. The gameplay is simple yet addictive, overlaid with console-quality graphics and a charming musical soundtrack. And as you progress through each world, the action becomes more intense; initially you're just batting at mardy cockerels with wooden sword, but in later stages you'll be dodging fireballs, dangling over spikes, and staring down ferocious wolves with gleaming fangs.
The platform mechanic also conceals an artful puzzler. To get at the secret cards hidden on each level, you need to figure out how to manoeuvre the knight into a position to grab it. Not easy to do when there's a constant danger of winding down. But it's worth the trouble, because if you complete each level with all the coins and cards, you'll get extra currency and unlock bonus levels.
So there you have it. A game that's fun to play and, together with its built-in primer on etiquette for princesses, somewhat educational as well. Not sure if those rules still hold up in the modern day, though.