Although not a prolific developer, Pigeon Dev Games is still well-versed with 2D platformers, with half a dozen – including 2019’s Awesome Pea – to their name. There are telling signs this is the case as the fundamentals of a run ‘n gun platformer are all present. The controls are responsive, death always feels just and fair, enemies satisfyingly explode, and the 2D artwork is well drawn. It even throws a few jaunty chiptunes into the mix.

But all this good work is undermined by one major oversight – Bucket Knight is patronisingly easy, providing almost no challenge whatsoever. The number of stages to play through may be high, but they’re all extremely short. Some can even be finished on the first attempt in under thirty seconds. To make this matter worse, there’s no attempt at creating a smooth difficulty curve. They could be presented in a randomised order and it wouldn’t make any difference to the sense of progression.

In just over an hour we had seen everything on offer, and there is no incentive to return. Not even the lack of checkpoints is a concern – the levels are so short that you never have to backtrack far to reach where you died.

It doesn’t even have the decency to provide an end boss – a few locked doors, requiring keys always located nearby, are the only figurative hurdles. The only other level variation comes in the form of vertically scrolling stages, in which sawblades slowly rise from the bottom. These should be tense – panic-inducing, even – but it’s far too easy to outrun them.   

Perhaps the oddest omission is that there’s no central gimmick based around the money-hungry hero’s choice of headwear. We hoped pressing down would make the nameless chap take cover inside his bucket to avoid incoming fire, but nope – it serves no purpose. Somebody should send Pigeon Dev Games an Oor Wullie annual.

The only standout feature is that despite the medieval theme – including goblins and a quest to find the Holy Grail – both the hero and his green-skinned foes carry pistols, rifles, and shotguns. The starting pistol is adequate; once the chaingun is unlocked, everything else is null and void.

The screen is consequently often filled with large glowing bullets, with some formations requiring a decent sense of timing to avoid. The odds are never stacked high, however – it’s possible to withstand several hits, and health pick-ups (cherries and apples) are frequent.

Due to its brevity and straightforward nature, we can only recommend Bucket Knight to achievement hunters and gamers of a very young age. Weirdly though, the pixel art visuals and funky CRT filter – in addition to dozens of Monty Python references – suggest it’s geared toward older gamers who enjoy a retro throwback.

If this was their intended audience, then it’s fair to say Pigeon Dev has missed the mark. They know what makes a platformer tick, but it seems they’re struggling with the finer points. Hopefully the forthcoming Awesome Pea 2 ups the ante.

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