sore thumbs

March 3rd, 2011 |
By Matthew Scott Hunter

'Knights Contract'

Dying is the real challenge

M *1/2

Namco Bandai Games

Xbox 360

Most video games challenge you to stay alive. But for Heinrich, hero of "Knights Contract," dying is the real challenge. A curse has rendered the world-weary and battle-scarred executioner of witches immortal, and at this point, he'd like nothing more than to rest in peace. But Gretchen — the witch who cursed Heinrich before she fell to his scythe — has other plans. Freshly resurrected, she fills the role of sidekick on Heinrich's quest to stop the machinations of the evil Dr. Faust. However, Gretchen is as fragile as Heinrich is invincible, and that's why the game quickly falls apart.

Gretchen is a moron. She is perhaps the stupidest A.I. comrade gamers have ever had to baby sit. She has a tendency to position herself directly in harm's way, and she only gets the impulse to attack when her diminished health bar strongly recommends retreat. You can pick her up and carry her to safety, but as soon as you let go, she's headed straight back into the line of fire. And though Heinrich can't die, he can be temporarily dismembered, so while you're mashing buttons to put Humpty Dumpty back together, guess whom the bad guys are slaughtering? And naturally, Gretchen's death means game over. With an interesting premise, a solid combo system and plenty of magical eye candy, "Knights Contract" could've been so much more than one lengthy escort mission from hell. But after a couple hours of dealing with Gretchen's frustrating antics, you'll wonder who's the most suicidal — Heinrich, Gretchen, or you. CV