Developer: Andrew Schneider
Publisher: Andrew Schneider
Price: USD $4.99 iOS, $19.99 Desktop
There have been many movie adaptations of the daring adventures of Robin Hood. My first exposure to the green-clad archer, like probably most of yours, took the shape of a fox and his friend Little John took the shape of a bear. Since then, there’s been Robin Hood Men in Tights, one starring Russell Crow and directed by Ridley Scott, the BBC show, and whatever that Origins from 2018 was. Robin Hood has graced the big and little screen ever since film became popular with at least one new adaptation coming out every decade. But if the book is better than the movie, then what about a book game?
Spiritual Content: A Mother Mary statue is near your base and you can choose to restore it and pray at it or not, Friar Tuck is always ready to help with wise words, you can gain or lose favor with the Church, and the Crusades are being fought. Most of your base’s inhabitants are Christian believers, but at least one is a Muslim, which causes a conflict when you recruit Crusaders who have come back from the war. Magic in all types are present: fairy/fae magic, accused witchcraft, black magic, forest magic, and even slight-of-hand.
Violence: Well, graphically speaking, no; but yes. Arrows are shot in pursuit, in self defense, and in hunting. People die, and sometimes you stumble upon people dying, a hangman’s tree, and even someone being burned to death in front of you. You also have the chance to take lives in punishment to set an example, or to be merciful to your enemies.
Language/Crude Humor: If you try to kiss Marian before courting her, she will hurt you and tell you she is not a wh*re. Other than that, I did not come across any unsavory language that stood out to me in my first play-through.
Sexual Themes: A unicorn asks you if you have remained pure before marriage. There is some background talk of female anatomy and some characters’ exploits, but it is mostly vague or you only catch part of the conversation. You can apparently choose between nine romance partners (I only came across three in my play though) and at least one of them is male. The wolf does let you know he is not a romantic interest.
Positive Themes: Unity, freedom, and the concept that every man is created equal are all present in the game.
When the opportunity to review a game based on Robin Hood came up, I jumped at the chance! I’ve watched several movies, shows, and documentaries about the green-clad, bow-and-arrow wielding outlaw of justice. I thought I knew quite a bit. As it turns out, I’m apparently Jon Snow and I know nothing.
The game first starts with a bang… and by that, I mean your house is on fire. All of Locksly Manor is an inferno and the Sheriff is calling out for you. You also have maids being pushed into rooms by the Sheriff’s people. What do you do? Do you try to make a quick getaway to your stables and ride away under the cover of darkness, or do you hide yourself as another maid and try to save your servants? Difficult options like these are throughout the game. What kind of Robin Hood are you?
One of the more difficult things for me, was, once Robin decides to head to Sherwood Forest, he loses all his followers that he gained standing up to the Sheriff’s raid. I wantend to have all the manpower I could get, and I gained a good amount of followers. Once the game funnels you into going to Sherwood Forest to hide out, all of your followers nope right out of there. Too many creepy things go on in those woods, y’know? I actually reset the game several times to try to keep my following, making different decisions, trying to figure out what the correct path was… but it always lead to me losing my following.
Which, side-note: as if Robin Hood needed any Messiah/Savior parallels — I mean, it is Robin Hood we’re talking about, the quintessential take-care-of-the-poor, uh, GUY! — this moment in the first chapter of the game reminds me exactly of what happens with Jesus and the disciples. Jesus basically says, “Yo, things are about to get crazy my dudes.” Peter says, “Hey, I’m with you one hundred percent. Ride or die, my man.” Then the crazy starts happening: soldiers bust up when Jesus is praying, take him away to be crucified, and all the disciples scatter! Later, when Jesus comes back from being dead for three days, he meets back up with his friends and tells them “Let’s do good to others and let’s make a better world.” And that’s the very same thing that happens in this game at the very beginning!
Once I got over the fact that I couldn’t keep my following, I went into the strange unknown of Sherwood Forest. Knowing that this story was going to be based on the “true adventures of Robin Hood,” I thought it was kinda neat that Robin lost followers because of the fear of the forest, that they held superstitious beliefs about strange mystical and magical creatures that would do who-knows-what to any mortal being that wanders into their playground. You don’t typically see unfounded superstitions in video games. Usually in video game and story worlds, if a child is afraid of a monster in their closet…there’s an actual monster in their closet! So, in trusting the “true tales” part of the title, I was interested to see where Sherwood would lead me — and then I ran into Marian who was holding blue fire in one of her hands, and then I realized it wasn’t actually that kind of “true.” I was slightly bummed, but given my affinity for fantasy—particularly starring heroes clad in green tunics—I was still eager to go along for the ride. What I found both delighted me and stressed me out.
The main story and side stories are mostly great. A few politically-orientated side stories admittedly over-stay their welcome, like when you are invited to a dinner so you can gain nobility allies. There was another one where a noble was having issues with some of his workers because they’ve heard of Robin’s rebellion and wanted to be part of it, but the noble wanted you to come over and talk some sense into them. Those sort of things really didn’t do it for me, but thankfully they are optional. But the interesting stories significantly outweigh the boring ones, such as when Robin goes to explore a ghost ship on his own, or tries to figure out the secret of the Wisps.
I enjoyed plenty of other things in the game, too. Little John is part troll…because he has a fascination with not letting people pass a certain bridge. Marien is related to Morgana (aka Morgan le Fay), long time rival to Merlin. You can host a party for the fairy folk and try to get them to partner with you. There’s even a dragon and you can help raise her babies! Eagle-eyed geeks can pick out some other clever cameos as well, including a certain Scottish princess who enjoys archery (though she goes by a different name), and one the 31st of October, where the Sheriff is throwing a party and you can come dressed as a fox!
Now, what stressed me out was that I didn’t realize I would have to manage so much! There are three factions you want to keep happy: the church, the common people, and the fairies. I tried to play middle-of-the-road, as I wanted everyone to be happy with me, but that meant I didn’t excel with any group. I also had to manage money, update my hide-out, bring a new order to the world, and apparently find the right person to romance since I can’t just settle down with Wolf! I really didn’t expect a management side to the story, but it certainly adds mechanical depth to the otherwise narrative-heavy gameplay.
So, how does the Nocked! stack up against the movies? In some ways, much better than I expected; in other ways, I was a little disappointed or annoyed. I would have had much more fun if I didn’t have to manage so many numbers and points. I mostly expected it to be a choose-your-own adventure — and it was, but with more mechanics intended to keep it from getting stale. It kept me, as a player, from becoming too passive. In a movie or a book, Robin does a daring thing, and it’s cool. In an interactive novel, you choose to either run away or do a daring thing, and are then rewarded because you (possibly) those the right option (or died). However, in Nocked!, if you choose to do the daring thing, but also have enough points with the Fairy folk, you can choose to do an even more epic daring thing and, admittedly, that’s pretty cool. Because of all the story options and number management, there’s a lot of replay value to Nocked!