Xbox One, PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch
December 14, 2023
Chorus Worldwide Games
LCB Game Studio
The year is 1986. Bob Hawke is Prime Minister, Neighbours debuts, and Hawthorn wins the VFL Grand Final. But we’re not in Australia, instead, we’re in Tornado Valley. In Bahnsen Knights, you play as undercover agent Boulder, who’s assigned to investigate the Bahnsen Knights cult. Your oldest friend Cupra investigated the cult and its leader Toni, an ex-car salesman. But with Cupra gone, it’s up to you to figure out if Toni knows much more than he’s leading on. Bahnsen Knights is the third game in LCB Game Studio’s Pixel Pulps trilogy, inspired by the pulp magazines of yesteryear. Previous titles in LCB’s trilogy are Mothman 1966 and Varney Lake. Bahnsen Knights offers some pretty unsettling moments, wrapped around a big-picture story that doesn’t know what it wants to offer.
Previous games have you playing as more than one character, in Bahnsen Knights, you control one character throughout. He’s a family man, who wants to find out what happened to his oldest friend. LCB breaks the game up into ten chapters. Throughout these chapters, you have to find evidence, talk to fellow cult members, and drive into oncoming traffic. While this game is about a cult, it doesn’t really… elaborate on the cult itself. We’re told that they’re a “notorious religious cult”, but we don’t see their interactions with the towns-folk or non-cult members. Sure, some moments show how messed up Toni can get. But there aren’t the little moments leading up to it to provide context. It could be that this big-picture story is simply told in too short of time.
Bahnsen Knights is a short game, which can be great for those who are time-poor. But, as mentioned in our Varney Lake review, it seems that LCB doesn’t use their two-hour allotment perfectly. While Bahnsen Knights has some fantastic characterisation, a lot of the gameplay involves Boulder talking about how much he misses his kid, or his wife, or his friend. It’s understandable but also gets quickly redundant. LCD could’ve spent better use of their time diving deeper into the reasons behind things. Show us the why in addition to the what.
Like the other entries in the Pixel Pulps series, Bahnsen Knights is a ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ game. Because of that, the narration uses a second person point-of-view. Instead of the narration using I, me, my; it’s instead using you, your and yours. Even though you play as someone who isn’t exactly you, it still lends itself to the types of interactive fiction that were popular during the 70s and 80s. With that said, the use of the second person brings me immense joy, as it scratches that itch from the Give Yourself Goosebump novels. However, the point-of-view doesn’t feel fully realised as a narrative device. Sometimes it feels like they’re telling the story, rather than showing. It’s a saying that brings immense pain to writers, but it’s true! The second person is a very difficult narration technique to pull off right. It’s why most stories use the first or third perspective.
There are, unfortunately, very few accessibility settings at all. While you can change the speed of the text, along with the length of the auto delay, that’s pretty much it. This is a real shame. Of course, visual novels don’t need to have a lot of settings, but I found that a lot of the mini-games were difficult and extra options would have been welcome. One mini-game has you driving towards oncoming traffic, and it’s an uncomfortable viewing experience. The graphics and animation style along with clunky controls make this segment a challenge. And if you do decide to skip these events, you’re penalised for it.
Characters have a relationship bar whenever you speak to them. Your actions can be negative or positive. Thus, if you decide not to do the car mini-games, you’ll lose relationship points. As a relationship mechanic, it makes sense. But if you need to skip it, for whatever reason, it makes a big impact. Along with the car mini-game, there are two more. One is a card game called Crucis Solitaire, and the other is darts. There is an option to re-learn how to play this version of Solitaire, which is a step up from the previous game. But even after playing a few times, I never truly understood it. To win at darts, you’ll need to hit the centre, known as a Glen’s Eye. If you do win, you get a free shot of single malt whisky… in the eye. I was never able to win this.
Another gameplay element in Bahnsen Knights is finding evidence and assigning it to the correct holy card. Throughout the game, you can collect more evidence. The game also allows you to learn what each holy card represents many times. One piece of evidence is available if you befriend the bartender, and the other is unlocked by an infuriating mini-game. You have to try and unlock the boot of one of the Bahnsen Knight’s cars. Sounds fine, right? Wrong! You only have one guess to break into the boot and collect the evidence… that is if that person has the evidence. It became so frustrating that it didn’t feel worth it in the end. While trial and error can be fun, this became annoying due to continuously dying.
“Even though the graphics are pixel art, you’ll experience some genuinely terrifying moments”
With that said, the characterisation is fantastic. You have a real sense of who is who, what drives them, and why they’re there, along with some interesting environmental storytelling. Like in the bar has photos above the record player.
The main thing that sells the game though is its graphics. It feels like some kid has put this game in a time capsule ready to open in 2023. It’s stylised in a way that feels like Sierra Entertainment developed it. Or closer to the 1982 game, The Hobbit, made by Melbourne-based studio Beam Software. Even though the graphics are pixel art, you’ll experience some genuinely terrifying moments. What’s interesting about the games in the Pixel Pulps lineup is the visual differences. Mothmen 1966 makes use of cyans and greens, Varney Lake’s colours are deep to light blues, greens and yellows, whilst Bahnsen Knights uses cyan, pinks and red. It’s just a nice and novel through line for this series.
The game also has some great uses of chiptunes, whether that’s in the background music or sound effects. Much like the visuals, the sounds can be unsettling, that sense of dread filling your senses. Because Bahnsen Knights harkens back to the 80s, the game doesn’t use voice acting at all. Instead, each word is a beep or a boop. All these touches to the sound design are great as they help LCB create the right atmosphere. You can also change the music coming from the jukebox which is all based on games published by Bahnsen Knight’s publisher, Chorus Worldwide Games. Like the Aremy Jendrew album from Coffee Talk 1 and 2.
Bahnsen Knights feels nostalgic. The game offers a standalone experience that you can enjoy without having to play the previous two. But of course, you do get a better idea of what you’re in for if you have played a Pixel Pulps game before. Whilst Bahnsen Knights can at times feel somewhat surface level, it does hit a niche that few other games manage. It’ll be interesting to see where LCB takes the Pixel Pulps now, or if they simply leave the concept as a trilogy.
- Graphics are nostalgic
- Characterisations is well done
- Fills the hole left by Give Yourself Goosebump novels
- Doesn't go in-depth with the plot
- Mini-games should be more accessible
- Second person POV isn't well-used
The last of LCB Game Studio’s Pixel Pulps is here! Bahnsen Knights is a short, choose-your-own-adventure about a cult of the same name. Despite focussing on the wrong areas of the plot, the game does have some lovely characterisation where one sentence paints a big picture. The nostalgic feel along with the gorgeous and sometimes downright terrifying pixel art means that Bahnsen Knights offers a lot, despite some rough edges.