We have seen many platformers come and go on the mobile scene, but Wind-up Knight 2 stands out from its cohorts for quite a few reasons. Wind-up Knight 2 builds on its predecessor's variations on the tried-and-true controls of both the endless runner and platformer genres. While it plays quite similarly to the first Wind-up Knight, this sequel is actually quite different. At the same time, there's much about Wind-up Knight 2 that just feels like an optimized version of the first title. So while everything looks amazing and plays well on its own, we still experienced a bit of déjà vu as we were progressing through our knight's levels.

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The first thing we noticed about Wind-up Knight 2 was just how beautiful everything looked. From its backgrounds to the player and enemy models, the graphics of Wind-up Knight 2 just seem to pop out. Much of this effect can be attributed to the excellent amount of layering that goes on as you go from the background landscape to the items that are placed in the foreground in front of your character. This produces a tremendous sense of depth that we normally do not see in mobile titles. If you were to go back to the first Wind-up Knight, you will see that none of this layering occurs, which made it feel very two-dimensional. This title on the other hand, looks like a completely new game while still adhering to the mechanized graphics style of its predecessor. Watching our knight run through each stage, dodge obstacles and slash through enemies all looks amazing due to the excellent designs of its levels.

We must note that there were some random frame rate issues when there were a multitude of enemies and obstacles on screen all at once. While this wasn't noticeable at first, the later, more complicated levels proved that Wind-up Knight 2's revamped graphics may have been a bit too much for mobile formats due to the frequency of its frame rate slowdowns.

While Wind-up Knight 2's graphics show a distinct level of growth and change compared to the first title, its reusing of the same exact enemy and obstacle models was a bit underwhelming. The main character looks redesigned in order to reflect the game's new aesthetic depth, but the enemy models, pitfalls and obstacles are all quite the same. A few new models exist, but they primarily exist as regular enemies which have been moved to the background that will fire upon your knight throughout the level. While players who are new to Wind-up Knight may not notice this, it is a bit underwhelming considering that two years have passed since the first title and we are still dodging the same spiked traps and slicing through the same exact enemies.

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The premise of Wind-up Knight 2 is relatively simple: your character will automatically run through his stage and encounter various traps, obstacles and enemies in his path that will instantly kill him if he were to touch them. It's up to you to decide when he should jump, roll, block or slash in front of these deterrents to his journey. Obviously, you would jump over pitfalls, gaps and up towards higher platforms. Blocking with your shield is meant to protect your character from overhead threats, such as catapult volleys, arrows and falling debris. You need to roll in order to dodge low-hanging spikes and other obstacles that are close to the ground. To no surprise, you slash your sword at enemies in your path. While these things all work efficiently, these are all the same exact mechanics from the first title, along with the same types of traps and enemies.

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Since your character automatically runs through the levels at his own rate, the four control commands you have are the only things you worry about in Wind-up Knight 2. This means that much of the game has to do with timing -- when you should block, jump, slash, roll, etc. This game has an excellent sense of pacing and properly builds up to levels where you must display a full mastery of these four actions while maintaining both keen eyes and fast reflexes. Towards the later levels, Wind-up Knight 2 had us at the edge of our seats as we would try to perfectly navigate so many pitfalls and obstacles blended together. Unfortunately, these later levels also had the previously mentioned frame rate issues, which led to some frustrating encounters and cheap deaths that were caused by having a multitude of obstacles and enemies on screen at the same time. These later levels also introduced new mechanics that increased the frenzy and difficulty of the game, such as teleporting and springboarding, which kept things relatively fresh despite having the same repetitive enemy and obstacle models being used over and over again.

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Ultimately, Wind-up Knight 2 feels like an optimized version of the first title, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. People who have never played the first title will find themselves submerged in an excellent, beautiful platformer that paces you from a slow run with simple hurdles to intricate levels where mastery of all four actions is mandatory for progression. The resulting effect is that Wind-up Knight offers an authentic, gorgeous experience that exceeds most of its cohorts on the mobile market. Unfortunately, the free price of Wind-up Knight 2 results in you hitting its free-to-play ceiling rather quickly. After eight levels, you will encounter a paywall where you must pay for the premium version of the game to unlock the rest of the game. Nevertheless, the quality of Wind-up Knight 2 warrants its $4 price tag. Without paying this price, Wind-up Knight 2 cuts you off just when its levels were starting to become very intense, which leads to an underwhelming cutoff point for those unwilling to pay for its premium content.

This review is based on a purchased copy of Wind-Up Knight 2 for iOS.

App Store Link: Wind-up Knight 2 for iPhone and iPad | By Robot Invader I Price: Free | Version: 1.0 | 221 MB| Rating 9+

8.0 out of 10 arcade sushi rating