Unravelling a New World: Knytt Underground Review
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 3.
Take a step out of reality for a moment to focus your mind on a more simplistic world. A dark, vast place, where exploration is your bestfriend, and a gentle breeze fills the air as you hear the pitter-patter of your little feet over the mossy ground. This is the 2D platform world of Knytt Underground, a game developed by Nicklas Nygren (Nifflas), and is the first console game released by the Swedish genius. Normally Nifflas games are released as freeware, available for digital download to anyone who enjoys the love of the game. So does this journey translate well onto the PlayStation 3 and PS Vita? Let’s take the plunge and go spelunking into the depths of Knytt Underground to find out!
When you launch the game, you will sit there looking at a black figure standing on a black mossy ground, with a glowing green background and the title Knytt Underground above the figure’s head. This is not the loading screen; it is actually the start of the game. The really neat thing about this is that the entire game is interconnected, and there is no differentiation between “this is the start of the game” and “this is the game itself”. It’s actually all one big world– menus included – with several ‘sections’ that you can freely roam in and out of. You can move around and explore until you find the entrance for the Chapters, or Options Menu, or even the Cloud Save Menu. The amount of roaming space in the game is incredible – it’s a 2D platform game that seems almost endless. So jump into the hole and start the fun!
You begin your journey (in Chapter 1) as a quirky little explorer named Mi. She is a quiet young girl who loves to run, jump, and climb her way through the underground any chance she gets – much to the dismay of her mother. At first you get no real direction, or any idea of where you are. You are told by a random stranger that you don’t know who you are or where you are. You disagree, and say you’re looking for your sister and that you need to move ahead. He lowers a pillar behind him and you make your way to her. From there, your sister says you are going to see the fairies… but there isn’t any indication as to where they are, what your objectives are, etc. Much of the game will be spent like this, as the storyline is extremely bare bones, and only implants story when they want you to actually do something specific (which is not often). Although this all sounds pretty innocent, parents should beware that the dialog contains expletives, so the game isn’t suitable for children.
As you progress through the other chapters, the only real thing that changes is the protagonist, with slight variation in scenery and the difficulty of your tasks. The storyline and gameplay remain very much the same. When you enter Chapter 2, you will roam around as a bouncy ball named Bob. Bob is the character who can jump really high, and roll around. There really isn’t too much to him (he’s a ball, after all). In Chapter 3, you will be able to switch between the two main characters as you wish.The ability to change characters mid-chapter will be extremely helpful as you’ll find areas that you have to climb (Mi), and areas where jumping high is necessary (which is where Bob comes in).
Though the entire theme is directed towards simplicity, it also comes dangerously close to the border of monotony and boredom. With less directional content to drive the players forward, many will just simply forget to pick the game back up and keep playing. As a purely exploratory and platform experience, it is one of the best you’ll see to hit the market in years – though don’t expect the same type of depth to the story, as you will be left with disappointment. The uniqueness of the game coupled with the simplicity can make players feel as if they are running along the countryside without a care in the world – just doing it to explore. The feeling is great – but be aware you can set yourself back:one wrong jump and you’ll spend half an hour trying to get back to where you were. There are several places in the game where there is no indication of this, but if you do make a wrong move you’ll have to go all the way back around the map, which can be irritating at best.
The in-game graphics are extremely artistic, and change the focus from foreground to background so you can appreciate it more than in any other game. Your entire moving space in the foreground is completely black, but the background is filled with fully lit images of assorted greenery, or at times just a vibrant backdrop filled with colour. Some of the images are breathtaking, and have so much detail to them you’d think you were looking at a showy lady’s slipper gently blowing in the breeze in your own home, or looking directly into a kaleidoscope. With every bold, artistic move graphically, there are bound to be some downsides. Because the walls and ground are all completely black, there is no indication when you get to certain platforms or walls. You’ll likely spend a lot of time jumping at walls in vain trying to find a hidden path so you can continue exploring, and until you discover an area on your map (or have one revealed for you), you won’t know if there is another room beside you or not. The dark foreground is very simplistic as well, though it can be hard on the eyes as your character takes up very little space on your screen. For those who thoroughly enjoy platform games, this adds to the difficulty, though it can also tire out your eyes.
Musically, the game follows the same pattern as the storyline – there isn’t much to it. It is hauntingly quiet, and only hums along every few minutes or so. The sound effects are the main noises you’ll hear: your feet rapping on the ground, the gentle thuds as you jump around. The sounds are so soft it is almost as if you are outside in the dead of night, looking for crickets. While this can be relaxing, some will find it too eerily silent for their tastes, and hours of this only adds to the effect.
Don’t let the simplicity or mild irritants dissuade you from spending your money, though. Overall, the game is incredibly brilliant, adding a new twist to the 2D platform games with its artistic inclinations, and at the same time taking us back to the basic games we used to play as kids. Add to the fact that Nifflas has brought us the same amazing games for free over the years, and even if you only enjoy the game in bits and pieces for a few hours at a time – with a price of $14.99, who can really complain? Knytt Underground provides a huge exploratory world that with all its quirks is sure to give you a fun little concept-game you can pick up and go whenever you want.
Knytt Underground receives a 3.75/5.0
About This Post