Dungeons & Dragons is a noble pursuit. Friends band together to fight a common foe, using chance and camaraderie to fight their way through scenarios only limited to what the Game Master can imagine. Knights Of Pen & Paper II combines this tabletop great with traditional menu-driven RPG combat and a knowing wit to create something both old and fresh.
You play as... well, whoever you want! The game starts when you create two characters to control, selecting a personality type, a race and a class for each. Personalities vary from American high school drama stereotypes, like 'jock' and 'cheerleader', through to 'Goth', 'hipster', 'lab rat', and more besides. A personality can only be selected once (to fill a party of five maximum) and has a trait attached: for example, resurrecting the Goth is free (cheeky!). The races - Dwarf, Elf and Human - also have unique traits.
The class choice gives you access to special moves or more traits that can be upgraded as you level up. Special moves include some nifty and creative attacks. A favourite is the Thief's grappling hook: you can wrench an enemy from the back row to the front, making it easier for fellow players to hit them, and success makes the Thief shout "Get over here!". I felt the same kind of glee as shouting "OBJECTION!" at a DS for Phoenix Wright purposes. However, whereas opportunities to "OBJECT!" are limited (and all the better for it), you will have many, many chances to get the baddies over here.
Combat, as you'd expect, is a massive part of the game. Enemies line up behind the Game Master's head, facing your party, and an order of attack is assigned to all participants. When your character's turn comes up, select your attack - or energy-consuming special move - from the menu, the foe you wish to slap nut upon, and sit back until your turn comes around again. It's satisfying enough, with enough depth to get tactical on your opponents, though its appeal does begin to wane towards the end of the campaign.
The real star of KOPAPII is the dialogue. The words "genuinely funny" in a review may not always mean what they say, but so many jokes are fired at the screen that you'll surely find something worthy of your LOL's. The reams of text do mean that the thread of the story can be difficult to keep hold of - there is much more side quest than quest, too - but it's not a game-breaking issue. The fact that the narrative is you playing D&D through your GM's story brings something different to the table, and these layers help keep the interest up.
Graphically it looks fine enough on the iPhone 5C screen, though in larger resolutions it will seem pixellated. The animation is slight, as well. The tunes are of the chip variety and did not outstay their welcome, though there is a lot of repetition. Sound effects are almost non-existent and pretty ropey when they do occur, but we feel this is in keeping with the aesthetic.
Flaws? Well, the early game - and any dungeon that you come across - is a fair challenge until you can fill out your five-person party. Battles are only random in dungeons and you can opt to fight a selection of local monsters at any point on the map screen, so there's always grinding (which you'll be doing for cash or levels anyway). It also failed to load once, though that might be the fault of the overworked Gintendo 5C more than anything else. Finally, your £3.99/$4.99 gets you a reasonably deep game, but not a terribly long one at the moment. Extra content is being added every so often but our playthrough, whilst enjoyable, lasted under five hours.
Final Verdict: Knights Of Pen & Paper II has that pick-up-and-play feel - you could have a battle or move the story on in between bus stops. The aesthetic is sweet, the gameplay deep-ish, and the dialogue great, making it a great game for mobiles. Somehow, though, it's not quite the sum of its parts.