The Joust is considered to be one of the most romanticized sports in the medieval and fantasy genre and for a good reason too -fully armored knights and steeds charging, weapons at the ready and all honor at stake, it is the perfect recipe for the ultimate climax. The game developers at Armor Games have managed to capture the basic essence of jousting, given it a simplified format and a pretty enjoyable game for all of us to play with. The Lance game brings us in control of our own custom-named knight and a simple quest to win the highest honor of the kingdom: the chance of being able to acquire the "lance".
The task is straightforward, compete in the jousting tournament and never lose a single match as you battle your way to the top. Sounds pretty simple enough, except that you and every single other armored chap in the kingdom is after the same price that you are. And that is not all, at the very end of the road awaits the Champion -an opponent armed to the teeth with all the most powerful equipment and the benefits of a giant level gap. This means that you cannot simply just waltz your way through every victory, you need to hone your jousting skills and maximize your experience point profits at every single match.
What is with that Boss?
We will not lie, the game is designed in such a way that your very first encounter with the champion (which is pretty much your sixth match) will end with your knight in a defeated pile on the ground. The same is to be expected with your later rematches (which are held at certain match intervals) until you can finally reach a level high enough to survive the champion's massively imbalanced attacks. The game treats each loss as a retirement for the current character you have. When you continue to play the game, you actually start controlling later generations of your character (hence the numerical values denoting "the second", "third" and so forth) -fortunately, this is pretty much an in story aspect only, every new generation will have the previous' stats, equipment and gold.
Jousting Made Easy
Despite the uphill challenge that the game presents, The Lance manages to stay in the gun category for its super simplified game format. In combat, you use your mouse to control your horse's speed and attacking point of your lance; for the menus, everything runs through point and click. And by easy, we meant the controls, the challenge on the other hand, takes players for a really good ride. The first few jousting matches will instantly let you in on the gameplay basics -defense is automated, all you need to do is to concentrate on where to aim.
Of course, landing that nice sweet attack on your opponent's helm is never easy when they are trying to block with you with a shield, so positioning your mouse cursor is a dynamic task -you must constantly adjust to ensure maximum damage. The game places importance in both movement and timing, which, if practiced will allow you to nick the helm and deal massive damage despite the humongous shield trying to block your target area.
Not Quite Lite
One of the things we appreciate about many casual games applies true for The Lance: there is simply no point in taking things too seriously. The game makes use of super deformed characters, a cartoonish art style and a simplified combat system -it does not try to impress you with overly rendered graphics or an elaborate stat system. While this may seem like it turns the Lance into a slightly shallow game -it does not. The basic level of details complements the mood and overall feel of the title, allowing it to stand on its own.
Speaking of simple, the story is straightforward, but actually interesting enough to read. If you are not pressed for time, take a few minutes to go through the narratives of the game as opposed to skipping it, the writing style is light, easy to follow and quite well written.
The only issue we found with the game's delivery is that the quality toggles on the bottom of the screen are not exactly all that functional. This is going to make playing the game properly on lower spec devices a bit difficult as most netbooks are unable to play flash games without skipping. While the game does get a few brownie points for having a graphics quality toggle, pressing it will only a affect certain areas and screens of the game (such as the close up head portraits and the opponent's window -the player's window remains the same). While it may not seem like a big deal for some, it is actually a major factor that casual game developers should consider since most casual players will not invest in a high spec system just to play a few flash games.
Good for the Long Haul
Unlike other casual game titles, The Lance has a pretty good gaming lifespan and a bit of replayability to boot. This is all thanks to the early boss presence factor that the game fits in: you can challenge yourself to groom and train the best jousting combatant and try to earn the titular Lance in as few generations as possible. At level 10 by the second generation, if a player has been able to amass enough gold for good equipment, it is actually possible to come close to beating the champion during the second encounter, though we have yet to directly prove this as we lost that match by a hair's breadth -we are going to have another go at it after our second playthrough.
The Lance game is a great game that is aware of itself, and in that regard, we love the way it focuses on its strengths and keeps players away from its minor issues. Thanks to its easy controls, addictive match setups and the unique scenario that it focuses on, The Lance has quickly become one of our choice games for players who want to try something new and exciting. We give this game an imbalanced champion's 83/100.