Knytt Underground review
Knytt: Underground by Mnmfan
Knytt: Underground Review
It’s easy to get caught up in the big hitters at the moment such as Far Cry 3 or Black Ops 2 but sometimes it’s nice to just take a step back and try a game you wouldn’t normally try. A small, relaxing and serene game such as Knytt could be just what you need to reduce your heart rate.
Knytt has the amazing ability to kind of phase you out of reality and suck you into its quirky world and mad-hatter story.
Knytt is a low-budget independent game from indie-developer Nifflas. I’m not going to google his portfolio and pretend to know who he is. Knytt is the first game I’ve played by him and chances are it’ll probably be the last game I play by him.
The story of Knytt is simple yet at the same time very cryptic.
It’s 200 years in the future. Humans have killed themselves off and the earth’ surface has become inhabitable. Only the mythical creatures such as fairies, pixies and sprites remain and have taken up residence in an underground network of tunnels.
A mute sprite named Mi learns of an old myth that claims that every 600 years the Six Bells Of Faith need to be rung to avoid the end of the world. So she sets off on an adventure with 2 fairies by her side to ring the 6 bells of faith and apparently avoid the apocalypse. Details of the myth are vague and cryptic however and thus her entire adventure could be just that.. a myth. You’ll need to beat the game to discover the truth.
So let’s get down to the nitty and gritty, the gameplay.
As you may have guessed from the screenshots scattered throughout this review, Knytt is a side-scrolling platform/adventure/rpg type game. Mi is very nimble and some might say she is a bit too quick with her movements. The sensitivity of her movements may be a bit nauseous for some players as the slightest touch of the left stick makes Mi run halfway across the screen. She can also climb any surface. In fact she’s quite a capable climber, able to jump from wall to wall like an indecisive spiderman. Running and climbing are really the only 2 things Mi can do throughout the game. However in Chapter 2 she gains the ability to change into a ball. Well technically the ball is a whole other character but Mi can change into Bob the ball at the press of a button. This new mechanic opens up a whole new set of ways to traverse the map and solve puzzles.
Knytt has a pretty shallow learning curve too thanks to how the game is split into 3 chapters. The first 2 chapters are pretty much just a tutorial. In chapter 1 you play as Mi and are taught how to jump, climb, accept quests, find and use items etc. etc. Then chapter 2 introduces Bob The Ball. Here you discover how to reach high places by bouncing. Once you reach chapter 3 the entire map opens up and you can now switch between Mi and Bob at the press of a button. Chapter 3 is where the game properly starts.
The sheer scale of the Knytt world can be a bit overwhelming. The map screen (accessed by pressing circle) shows every room you’ve uncovered. At first when you check your map you will see an un-shrouded tiny room in the middle of your map screen. It’s daunting to say the least. Especially when you know that eventually your entire screen will be filled with over 1800 rooms. Where you go from the start point is up to you. Knytt gives you the freedom to explore and it’s entirely your choice what you do with that freedom.
Even though there are 1800 rooms to explore, I’m guessing roughly 60% of those rooms have nothing in them aside from being a path to get to the next room. Yes there are a lot of hidden paths and secrets to find but unfortunately most rooms are just stepping stones to get to the important rooms. Nevertheless these ‘stepping stones’ while defunct of any gameplay elements do make up for it in the visuals department. With it all being set in underground caves you’d be forgiven for thinking it’ll all be dull, dark and boring visuals. Thankfully that isn’t the case. At the top levels you’ll see beautiful gardens, flowers and waterfalls being the back drop for each room. As you go down deeper however the visuals become darker and moodier. Till eventually the bottom levels have machines and cogs and even pitch darkness to reflect your location. It’s a nice little touch from the developer and it really adds to the atmosphere of the game as a whole.
So what do you actually do in Knytt? It’s all well and good of me telling you about the map and the characters but I’m sure you’re still wondering what it is you actually do in the game.
As mentioned above the entire story revolves around ringing the 6 Bells Of Fate. So when you start Chapter 3 (the main game) and check your map you will see 6 bell icons scattered across the whole map. So the whole game is you simply trying to reach those bells. It really is that simple. Just explore. Start heading in the direction of a bell and see what you come across. You’ll come across puzzles and platforming sections to test you. You’ll meet other characters that give you challenges and quests and often you’d just hit a dead end and be forced to back track. It’s the exploration that makes the game enjoyable.
It’s not all enjoyable unfortunately as Knytt does come with its fair share of bad points.
First onto the con list is the main character Mi herself. Mi is mute so she doesn’t say much. In fact she says nothing, but of course we can still read her thoughts in the speech bubbles. In a game with no audio dialogue Mi being mute felt unnecessary. What difference does it make if we read her speech or read her thoughts?!
It’s hard to like Mi as a character. She just doesn't contribute much to the whole adventure. Instead she feels like an empty shell of a character always second guessing herself and looking for advice. The 2 fairies that travel alongside you seem to make up most of Mi’ decisions for her. Mi is a simply drawn sprite so she really needs a good personality to make her memorable or all we’re seeing is a faceless clutter of pixels.
The controls take a bit of getting used to too. A big annoyance with the controls is that when you reach the top of a wall, Mi jumps up for no reason. Doesn’t sound so bad but when there’s an enemy shooting lasers at regular intervals at the top of the wall and Mi decides to jump into the laser for no reason, it becomes pretty annoying pretty fast.
Perhaps the following isn’t per se a con but I’ll mention it nevertheless.
This is not a kiddy game. Even though there is no audio dialogue the characters can be quite vulgar at times with the things they say. The F word is used here and there and ‘bitch and shit’ is often spoken too. Also children under 10 would struggle to beat the game. It’s a hard game with many secret areas and hard to find items and most kids would get frustrated with its layout.
The biggest con, for me personally, is the fact that a lot of the game feels utterly pointless. There are a lot of quests and challenges that take ages to complete but don’t give you anything in return.
For example, you come across a mother in distress because her daughter has gone missing. She pleads with you to go search for her daughter so naturally you accept. She tells you where her daughter might be hanging out so you set off to find her. You spend 20 minutes traversing a series of hard platforming sections, solving puzzles and probably dying a few times along the way too. Eventually you reach the destination but there’s no sign of the girl. So then you make your way all the way back to the mother and she tells you her daughter came back herself 5 minutes ago and to add insult to injury she adds “’you didn’t even go look for her did you?! Thanks for nothing!”.
There is also a hidden set of 15 very hard challenges that take roughly 2 hours to get through them all and after you beat the last challenge you are teleported back to the first challenge with nothing to show for your efforts except for a trophy.
Knytt is good. It’s not ground-breaking and once you beat the game you won’t go back to it, but it’s a game worth experiencing nonetheless. It’s pretty long as it took me roughly 20 hours to get all of its trophies and I still hadn’t unlocked the entire map at that point.
If you’re a fan of dungeon crawlers, pointless quests and pretty 2D visuals then Knytt will be a good game to try.
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