Like porn, it can be hard to define exactly what a clone is: but you know it when you see it. Muffin Knight has been riding near the top of the App Store for a several weeks, with the majority of its players probably unaware they're playing a copy of Super Crate Box, a freeware PC game that's also destined to hit the App Store in a couple of weeks.
Muffin Knight's developer, Angry Mob Games, say it's a coincidence it beat clone-beleaguered Vlambeer, the original Super Crate Box developer, to the iOS market, and characterises its game as a tribute. The tribute Muffin Knight pays is to copy SCB extremely thoroughly.
Each level is an enclosed set of 2D platforms to hop around on, with a steady procession of enemies walking from top to bottom – falling through the bottom to come back down from the top, angrier. Scattered around the levels are muffins (rather than SCB's crates), and picking one up instantly switches your character's look and weapon: there are fifteen possible characters with their own attacks and upgrades, and the switches are breathless.
Too breathless, at times, as the random element turns up great moments and terrible ones: hopeless situations turned into hairs-breadth escapes or a misfired weapon and a quick end. The transition from character to character is instant, and you'll often die thanks to misremembering that character's weapon type – almost all the weapons, of course, are taken directly from SCB.
Muffin Knight plays a decent game, although the zoomed-in viewpoint doesn't work as well as seeing the whole level at once. And SCB's keyboard-powered precision is gone, with a virtual D-pad responding poorly under pressure and leading to many frustrating deaths – a platform-specific problem that SCB itself is yet to negotiate, to be sure.
Muffin Knight has two characteristics to distinguish it from SCB: a levelling system that unlocks character abilities, which is nice enough, and a standard fantasy aesthetic you've seen hundreds of times before that replaces SCB's achingly hip pixels. But neither make a great difference to the meat of the game, or indeed hide what this is. In music, bad tribute acts play pubs and weddings: in games, they sit at the top of the charts.