There's nothing inherently wrong with either licensed games or derivative beat-'em-ups. Some of the finest games on cell phones--including classics like Nightmare Creatures and Hulk the Mobile--have successfully recycled gameplay from Final Fight, and there have been a number of interesting movie-licensed titles as well. That said, game developers adopt many additional risks when taking on licensed products, and the temptation to skate on title alone at the sacrifice of gameplay always looms large. Unfortunately, Lavastorm's King Arthur fails to impress from either an originality or gameplay standpoint. Its beat-'em-up gameplay has been oversimplified to the point of tedium, and the Saxon-filled levels are too fundamentally uninvolving to provide much entertainment value.
In King Arthur, you play as the vainglorious swordsman Lancelot. In this role, you wander the countryside battling Saxons and other baddies from the eponymous film. The controls and gameplay are exceedingly simple. In a 2D environment, you move up, down, left, and right across the screen. If you try to move into an opponent, you whack him with your sword. Crates scattered about the battlefield hold various, temporary power-ups and the occasional healing potion. Sometimes, your foes leave these items behind. Other times, they drop vials of poison that sap your health. As you work through the game, you occasionally must battle bosses who are, in essence, bigger versions of the bad guys you previously defeated, except with lame special attacks, such as the ability to charge across the screen and hit you.
The game's strategy is as cut down as its controls. The only time you are in any sort of danger is when enemies manage to attack you from two directions. By keeping to the edge of the screen, you can cut off any flanking attacks before they place you in danger. Many times, your foes are content to dance back and forth without making any effort to attack you from behind or even from the front. Since you can only attack to the right or left, not up or down (though you can move in those directions) you only have to watch those directions. You can let a foe stand below you all day long--he can't touch you.
Oddly enough, you can make special attacks by rapidly pushing in a foe's direction, but in most cases the special attacks are slow, unwieldy, and serve as a perfect opportunity for an opponent to clobber you.
King Arthur's graphics are pretty run-of-the-mill. Your character is rendered in dark blues, and the backgrounds are simple to the point of being dull. The enemies have basic character designs that, in some cases, provide too little detail. For example, the level one opponents might be trolls, dwarves, or barbarians.
Overall, King Arthur is a rather banal, lackluster walk through the beat-'em-ups of yesteryear. The boss fights feel very predictable, and for most of the levels, your best strategy is to stand in a corner using your basic attack to slowly beat an opponent senseless, while his allies wait their turn. If you're expecting more than a cursory play out of King Arthur, you'll be disappointed.