Barcode Knight Review
Does anyone remember Skannerz? The old physical handheld that let you scan barcodes and if you found one from a rival tribe, you could battle and capture it for use in further battles? It came in different colours which had different monster sets that you couldn’t get, unless you had all three or won the monsters from a friend with one of the other colours. For that extra-special Pokemon element. These are the ones I mean, I had all three of the damn things:
That was my introduction to the world of barcode games but it was far from the first (that honour goes to Barcode Battler from 1991) nor the weirdest (Barcode Kanojo, the no-longer-available game where each barcode held a unique girl for the player to romance, dating sim style). So where does Barcode Knight fit?
Barcode Knight is developer Magic Cube’s second barcode scanner game, the first being Barcode Kingdom. It is also a departure from the usual style where each scan would unlock a single item or monster. Instead, every barcode generates a unique mini-dungeon for your character (or characters, if you hire a mercenary) to fight through. Scanning the same barcode multiple times increases the level of the enemies but not their type, encouraging you to be that guy at the supermarket, touching every item but never actually buying anything. Of course, if you don’t have access to thousands of barcodes, the developers have included two other dungeons, neither of which makes you look mad.
That’s great, right? The thing is, those other dungeons cost you Ability Points, a freemium-like energy currency. You get an AP every three minutes and the two dungeons cost 5 and 30 points. Leveling up restores your AP to full and increases your maximum capacity – I’m sure you’re familiar with it if you’ve ever played a “free” game. A fairy occasionally flutters by and grants you 10 AP a pop or, of course, you could use AP potions purchased with real money to restore your energy. You can also occasionally get these as a reward for completing the 30 AP dungeon.
Speaking of which, let’s say you are fully stocked on energy. You’ve rearranged your pantry so the barcodes are facing you, time to do some DUNGEONEERING, right? …right? Each dungeon consists of a single screen. Your character(s) start on the left, the enemy starts on the right and they run at each other until the strongest party wins. It’s an experience that’s short, hands-off and ultimately hollow but just sweet and just more-ish enough to keep me coming back. Your swings connect with a satisfying crunch and visual effect, critical strikes feel painful, enemies fly off the screen when defeated and upbeat music plays throughout. It’s a very satisfying experience, however brief. Not knowing which enemies live inside your breakfast cereal adds to the fun and the loot drops add the cherry on top.
The developers boast over half a million different combinations which is definitely impressive, since each item changes the way your character looks. Some are downright cool too, like the ghost dress. There is a kind of crafting system in the game. If you find two of the same item, you can give them to the appropriate crafter who will improve them. For a cost. And he’ll make you wait, too. That’s right, there is a wait timer for crafting – another freemium mechanic. As usual, it’s non-invasive at first (a few minutes) but quickly ramps up to over 6 hours to craft a +5 item. Thankfully and rather surprisingly, you are given the option to speed this time up using gold – the regular and abundant currency.
In fact, you can pay for most things with good old-fashioned gold. Hiring a mercenary? Gold. Combining an item? Speeding up a wait timer? Resurrecting a fallen mercenary? Buying a special item chest? All gold. Which is amazing considering how much of it you get. You are showered with loot and if you’re smart about it, there are massive profits to be made. Dungeons give gold all on their own and you can sell the loot you find directly. If you manage to snag two of the same item and combine it though, the new value is always higher than the sale price of the original items AND the combine cost. To use our earlier example of creating a +5 item – the blacksmith asked for 40 000 gold to craft the weapon and it costs 80 000 to speed up the 6 hour timer. 120 thousand gold is certainly nothing to sneeze at, but I could have afforded it if I didn’t keep dying to a quest mission in the third dungeon and had to resurrect my companion over and over again.
I use the word “quest” very loosely. Of the three dungeons you have access to, the first is generated from barcodes and costs no energy. The second costs only five AP but no barcode and randomly draws a selection of enemies for you to fight. The third dungeon, for 30 AP, has definite and pre-set combinations of enemies you have to find. There is no story, at least not in the six hours I’ve played, but these dungeons would be the closest thing to a quest. They get extremely difficult and reward you with AP potions for completing the ‘chapter’ a first time. If you repeat a chapter, you can get either a potion or thousands of gold, chosen randomly. Naturally it’s skewed towards the gold rather than the potion, but is still worth doing.
That’s all there is to the game, really. There is very little that breaks up the repetitiveness of battles, barring the occasional boss fight. The gameplay loop consists of you scanning a barcode (or spending AP), running a short dungeon and selling, keeping or crafting loot. Rinse and repeat till the end of time. It sounds like a shallow experience because that’s ultimately all it is. You can’t, won’t and shouldn’t play the game like I had – for 6 hours straight. Chances are it’ll become something you keep in your pocket to get out and marvel at in a shop every once in a while. It’s a beautiful and satisfying audio and visual spectacle, but a game to sit down and play? Not so much.
Thank you for reading! I said some negative things about Barcode Knight, but it is still a fun and interesting experience, especially if you’re new to barcode-scanning games. If you’re still interested, take a look at the Barcode Knight page for the official trailer, links to iOS and Android versions and other information!
Until next time. Power up!