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Knight Rider Review Rewind

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On 04/06/2022 at 09:20 PM by Jamie Alston

KITT turbo boosts onto the NES.

Underneath the glaring faults is a respectable take on a classic television series.

The 1980s was a decade with no shortage of TV action/crime dramas featuring a suave loner with a high-tech vehicle on a crusade to champion all that is good. At the top of the pile was Knight Rider. Each week, David Hasselhoff hit the road to stop criminals with the help of KITT- a super-advanced Pontiac Firebird Trans Am voiced by William Daniels (aka Mr. Feeny from Boy Meets World). A popular show in syndication by 1988, Knight Rider was the perfect candidate to get a licensed video game on the even more popular Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). So now, sit back and join me on this shadowy flight into a dangerous world of a man who does not exist.

You’re stepping into the shoes of Michael Knight- a former police detective turned field agent for the Foundation for Law and Government (FLAG). His vacation is cut short after being commissioned to partner up with KITT and investigate suspicious activities of a mysterious international crime ring. So Michael and KITT embark on a cross-country road trip through North America to catch these guys and put an end to...whatever it is they’re doing.

The player can choose between two game modes- Mission and Drive. As the name implies, Mission mode is the main course where you receive assignments and battle various enemy vehicles as you reach the goal marker. On the other hand, the Drive mode is a calmer cruise on the same stages, sans the enemies constantly firing bullets or throwing dynamite in your path.

KITT is equipped with a standard machine gun with unlimited bullets and can also be armed with missiles and lasers at various points in the game. And, of course, it wouldn’t be Knight Rider without the turbo boost- helpful for jumping over vehicles or shooting down aerial targets with greater ease. Each mission begins with Devon (your boss) communicating the details of Michael’s next destination. Then you’re given the pick of one of several upgrades to enhance KITT’s performance or offensive capabilities. Finally, after making your selection, it’s time to mete out justice on the mean roads of America.

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I’m not a fan of driving games that task you with maintaining multiple critical elements lest you fail. Unfortunately, Knight Rider falls into that category. While behind the wheel of KITT, you’ll need to watch your shields, gas tank, and timer. If you deplete any of these resources, it results in failure, and you’ll have to start from the beginning of the course again. The lion's share of penalties against you will be either taking damage by enemy fire or destroying civilian vehicles (colored blue to stand out from your enemies), which costs you 5 seconds off your remaining time. Either scenario happens all too easily while weaving through the hazards on the road.

Your enemies are red or yellow cars, semi-trucks, and helicopters. The yellow variety of those vehicle yield items to replenish time, gas, or special ammo. Occasionally, the FLAG truck will appear and replenish your stock of critical items. It’s a nice concession to balance the difficulty of maintaining those crucial resources, but you also have to make sure that the power-up icon touches KITT’s hood. Otherwise, it doesn’t register.

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The controls also take some getting used to. Since the A and B buttons are used to fire weapons and engage the turbo boost, you have to use the up/down keys on the directional pad to accelerate and brake. Trying to accelerate or slow down while constantly navigating steep turns or weaving between other cars felt uncomfortable for my thumb after a few minutes of repeating the same motions. In addition, I would sometimes slow down accidentally on a corner since it can be difficult to firmly press the up key while moving horizontally at the same time.

Difficult as the game may be, it’s far from impossible. Once you learn the feel of the game and successfully brave the first few stages, the possibility of making it through the challenges ahead becomes increasingly feasible as you continually outfit the car with greater capabilities. The backgrounds of the driving courses are well-detailed, with recognizable landmarks unique to each city. The colors really pop during the nighttime levels in New York and Las Vegas. It gave those areas an added sense of immersion I really appreciated.

Knight Rider also successfully replicates the look of the car’s dashboard equipment from the show. KITT’s visual monitor, voice modulator, and hood-mounted scanner bar are placed where they should be according to his live-action counterpart. The attention to detail adds a sense of authenticity that was sometimes overlooked in licensed video games.

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The audio presentation leaves much to be desired. First, there’s the music. Nowhere in the game does it include the Knight Rider theme from the show. Instead, the game reuses the same tune for 15 stages, with only a brief respite when approaching the boss battle. The music itself isn’t bad but sounds increasingly generic and adds a sense of monotony due to the lack of variety.

While driving, the engine more or less maintains the same hum with only very subtle variations in pitch. It takes away from the sense of speed you would expect in a game like this. The lack of pitch variation is oddly disruptive if you accidentally collide with a civilian car. It always took me an extra second or two to realize that I wasn’t going nearly as fast as the sound of KITT’s steady hum would have me believe. Although it’s a relatively minor flaw, it took me out of the experience.

To its credit, Knight Rider did strive to replicate the trappings of the TV show, and they were at least partially successful. The game’s overall visual presentation doesn’t disappoint. The banter between the show’s main characters is also a nice touch. Unfortunately, it’s marred by unpleasant controls and a lackluster audio presentation that didn’t bother to include the iconic music from the show on which it is based- a real shame considering that even the terrible Airwolf game at least got that part right.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:

All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.

These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.

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Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.

A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.



Cary Woodham

04/07/2022 at 08:21 AM

I loved the TV show as a kid, but I never played the NES game or really even heard of it much.

As a kid we all rode Big Wheels and I was jealous of the neighbor kid who had a Knight Rider Big Wheel that had a lever that let you do a spin brake!  But I was still pretty happy with my Dukes of Hazzard Big Wheel (man I'm aging myself).

Many years later, I got to review the Knight Rider LEGO Dimension set!  That was neat.

Jamie Alston Staff Writer

04/07/2022 at 02:22 PM

As a kid, I first saw Knight rider in the early 90s and I wasn't aware that I was watching reruns of a show that had long stopped producing new seasons. Even so, I immediately loved the concept of KITT.

I forgot that Knight Rider had it own Lego Dimension set. I really wish they would bring the show back in a revival that can make it past season 2.

The Last Ninja

04/16/2022 at 10:15 AM

Love this show! As good as the game sounds, it sounds like you never get to break through any walls. Missed opportunity! 


04/30/2022 at 08:38 PM

I never really watched the show even though I grew up when it was current. My friend though is a big fan. I may have to watch it with him again sometime soon. 

The game looks pretty good. Kind of repetitious though. I thought it might be like Spy Hunter and it is a bit. That first-person view though makes it look like Kitt is a semi truck and you are looking down on the traffic from the cab. 

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