Every kid is a goddamn dork. Some people - the cool kids of school - think they’ve got it all figured out, while others just mope about in their groups of indie kids, emos, and nerds, to name but a few very atypical retinues. It’s all a lie, though: in reality everyone’s an idiot as a kid, blissfully unaware of adult problems as they struggle through the most painfully awkward years of their lives.
Floppy Knights revels in that dorkiness. A tactical card-based game that’s been in early access since last June, Rose City Games’ adventure stars Phoebe, an absolutely adorable and excruciatingly optimistic nerd who delights in tackling problems facing her community. To this end Phoebe’s only gone and constructed her own AI, Carlton, and the two help out townsfolk by destroying monsters with their own beasties.
Floppy Knights’ story sort of plays out like a children’s book, and that’s no bad thing. Phoebe is your typical stay-at-home kid: always being told to get out more by her parents, and actually being pressured to move out permanently in some instances. But just like every other kid, she’s got a dream, and that dream is to ascend to greatness via a local competition with her Floppy Knights, proving herself as a genius inventor.
There’s never a problem our hero has met that she's shied away from, or stranger that they met who they couldn’t somehow befriend through charm and sheer determination. Phoebe is never pushed into being sickeningly sweet, and so remains a loveable nerd who’s just really easy to root for. Add in a light and simple script, and you’ve got a slate of charming characters, like Bernard the big blue troll or Charlie the hyped-up competition MC, to meet and solve problems for.
Battlefields themselves are a tiled board, and you’ve got an army of Floppy Knights to use via a card system. Playing a unit card like a Barrel Cactus - a cactus shaped like a barrel, if you can believe it - will grant you several corresponding action cards, like moving, striking an enemy, and a special ability like healing another unit. You’ve got a finite amount of Energy to work with each turn, and every card costs a pre-designated amount, so Floppy Knights becomes as much a puzzler as it is a card battler.
The skill curve for Floppy Knight’s combat is nothing short of perfect here. Early game levels start out easy and introductory, with special bonus objectives to hit for more advanced players, and from there it ramps up beautifully to challenge players of all skill levels. Each biome’s early levels will introduce you to a new hazard, like lava in the volcanic region that’ll harm enemies passing through it. It’s your job to take this newly-acquired knowledge and put it to work throughout the rest of the biome, guiding your minions to victory with different demands.
Speaking of, Floppy Knights is really good at challenging you with varying objectives. Levels start out as “kill everything that moves” but transition to “hold this objective for two turns” or “protect this person for eight turns” relatively quickly, requiring you to assess a battlefield and prioritise targets. There are some extra challenge levels that’ll give veterans a headache, where the entire thing becomes more puzzle-focused when you’re required to beat an entire level in just one turn. The challenge levels smack of Splatoon 2’s super-tough Octo Expansion, and that’s brilliant inspiration.
Card battlers are often about the collectability aspect, and Floppy Knights incorporates that. You’ll earn extra unit cards periodically throughout the game - perhaps a devilish archer or a bell sprout that spits poison - which you can incorporate into your deck of 30 cards, and there’s a mode that’ll even let you craft cards using your hard-earned money from battles. Here you can create cards that’ll let you heal all your troops, for example, or give them poison attacks at the cost of their own HP. It works wonders for approaching the same level in a variety of different ways via new play styles, should you fail at first.
And as with its story, Floppy Knights looks like the pages of a children’s book (the sort I’d probably read to my brother for all of 10 seconds before he gets bored and punches me in the face) have been torn out and painstakingly animated on screen. The colors are vibrant, the browns and greens and reds all glowing wonderfully, and the little character sprites on the battlefield all sway endearingly while awaiting their turn. Rose City Games succeed in giving Floppy Knights a very lovable vibe, and crucially, and as they achieved with Phoebe, never push it too far into being cloying.
It may at first seems like a simple card battler, but Floppy Knights evolves into a meatier game the longer it goes on. There’s tough fights aplenty in the satisfying tactical battles with monsters of all shapes and sizes, and the challenge maps require you to plot your every move carefully to succeed. Rose City Games’ venture is just really easy to get along with, through its caring protagonist and welcoming art style, and never crosses too far into becoming a tiresome Saturday morning cartoon. Floppy Knights is a really enjoyable tactical card game that offers more the longer you spend with it, and it’s a joy to experience.