Similar to other notable independent titles, Nape Games’ Reknum tries to evoke nostalgia from when the video game industry was just in its infancy. Its graphics are pixelated, its story cuts right to the chase, and it’s a ball-bustingly hard experience. Despite having quite a few antiquated qualities, the retro-inspired ride that is Reknum delivers an engaging experience that’s sure to test your mettle.
What Is It?
Reknum places you in control of Cheri, princess of the eponymous kingdom of Reknum. One day, an evil sorceress in pursuit of immortality places a curse on five sacred crystals, trapping within them the entire kingdom. Armed with the trusty Sacred Claymore, it’s up to Cheri to save the kingdom by cracking open the crystals and defeating the sorceress.
That’s the long and short of Reknum’s plot. There’s no epic character moments, no plot twists, or anything else of the sort. The best way I can describe Reknum as a whole is “straight to the point,” something that is reflected not only in its story, but also in its gameplay.
Why Should I Care?
Reknum prides itself on its difficulty. It calls for awareness in all regards when venturing through its levels. Precision platforming, enemies that deal some significant knockback, and environmental hazards are all elements the game will pit against you, sometimes all at once. Additionally, levels don’t have checkpoints, meaning you have to clear a stage in one attempt, otherwise, you’re back at square one.
Throughout the game’s various stages, you’ll find treasure chests filled with gold which reward you with power-ups such as faster movement speed, higher jumps, or even double and triple jumps. These power-ups help widen the margin of error just a little bit while traversing Reknum’s levels, but still leave plenty of room for a challenge. Just like your level progress, power-ups reset every time you die, so each one you gain adds a new layer of tension — but not always for the right reasons. The speed power-up, in particular, has a tendency to do more harm than good; it can make Cheri a good deal more difficult to control, making sections calling for precision platforming harder than they would have been without them.
Every level in Reknum feels distinct, featuring their own sets of enemies, hazards, and platforming sections that you’re sure to retry a time or ten. Whether it be wandering in the darkness, or climbing platforms to avoid rising lava, every stage plays with its setting in some interesting ways that deliver a unique challenge.
The same can’t be said for the combat, however. Each area has their own enemies, but they all behave the same way. Once you’ve seen your first set of enemies, you’ve pretty much seen them all, and you’ll know exactly how to beat them. Unfortunately, this trend is only underscored by the uninspired boss battles, most of which can be defeated in no time at all by simply running up to them and swinging your sword until they die. It’s a shame that Reknum has so much personality and flair in its level design, yet lacks those same qualities in its combat.
Beyond completing the story and hunting for gold, the game doesn’t offer anything else in the way of side-content. Shortcuts to certain areas of other levels can be unlocked via bombs that clear new paths as you progress through the game, but with no collectibles or additional content to be found, there isn’t anything to incentivize revisiting an area you’ve gone through before.
What Makes It Worth Your Time And Money?
With my playthrough clocking in at a little under two hours, Reknum isn’t a particularly meaty title, but that doesn’t mean it’s completely devoid of replay value. After completing my first playthrough, I started a new game just to test out a few things, and found myself glued to the screen, challenging myself to beat the game as fast as I could; before I knew it, the game was over, and I felt like I kind of wanted to go for a third round. Those that are into speedrunning will likely get a kick out of trying to charge their way through the game, as it lends itself surprisingly well to that style of play.
For five dollars, it’s difficult not to recommend Reknum to those looking for a straightforward, hard as nails platformer. Its difficulty can prove a little taxing at first, but once you overcome that, you’ll find a quaint little title that throws it back to gaming’s early years. Reknum is a game that not only prides itself on its difficulty, but also invites you to take part in that pride when you conquer it. It combat may be antiquated and it might be lacking in terms of content, but its clever level design and ‘one perfect run’ mindset keep it afloat, making for a thrilling, albeit flawed experience.