Review by mildare_el_rayo

"I expected nothing, yet still I'm disappointed."

Knytt Underground is an independent game developed by Nycklas “Nifflas” Nygren. It tries to be a clever platforming exploration game but fails at every turn.

The game is divided into three chapters, of which the first two are very brief and serve as a prelude to the third chapter, which is where the game really opens up.

In the first chapter, you play as “Mi”, who seeks to go to a fairy fountain for no apparent reason. To enter there, you have to collect four artifacts that are scattered through the map and are easily found. The game is really just training you to move with Mi at this point, and controlling her actually feels really good. The controls are responsive and satisfying. Once you complete your first simple task, Nicklas, the game designer, makes an appearance, breaking the fourth wall: “And then there was an explosion”, and that's his justification for ending the chapter. The game is intentionally poorly written, and tries to be cute about it.

On the second chapter, things start to go downhill. Inexplicably, you control a ball that can bounce relatively high and is affected by the slope of the ground where it bounces. Controlling it is a nightmare: It can't stick onto walls, and the entire game world is designed around this mechanic. The ground is not always flat so sometimes the ball bounces onto a steep slope and goes bananas.

Perhaps this wouldn't be so bad if everything else about the game up to this point wasn't so deplorable and spiritless. The ball quickly makes a fairy friend who helps it traverse this horrid world. The fairy is as poorly designed as about everything else in the game. Every character in the game looks like it was made in a rush on Microsoft Paint by a thirteen-year old boy with no arms.

And let us never forget the despicable crime that is the game's writing. Allow me to illustrate: The fairy tells you it's looking for a tool that can open every door in the universe so that you can visit its girlfriend and feed you. And so, you spend an hour awkwardly wandering all over the game world going to random places looking for the fairy's tool. Once you look everywhere, the fairy tells you that perhaps you should check if the door has magically opened, and lo! it has. “Oh, good! A deus ex machina!”, exclaims the fairy.

And so you cross it and for a second time the fairy tells you once more to look for the door-opening tool. You spend some more time visiting the fairy's friends until the fairy says, and I'm quoting the game here, “How about if we head for the door and await another deus ex machina?”

As a ball, you've no choice but to comply, and upon arrival, the fairy exclaims: “Aha! The OTHER pocket! ‘cuz I usually put the tool in the left one.” And thereupon proceeds to open the door. One would assume that it couldn't get much worse from this point but one would assume wrongly.

Almost immediately after crossing this door, Nicklas makes a second appearance and says: “And then there was an explosion. I promise! The ending in the next chapter will be a lot better.”

The writing is so wretched it's almost offensive. It's an atrocious, cynical display that has absolutely no respect for the player's intelligence and gives not a crap about its quality.

The game comes into its own in the third chapter, the longest one, where it really opens up. Suddenly, you're Mi once again, and two annoying fairies are now accompanying you on your journey. Never in my life have I seen such a directionless game. Now that you can inexplicably morph into a ball at will, the entire map is accessible, and you may do as you wish. The goal of the game is to ring the six bells of fate because if you don't the world might end. This is pure conjecture from the game's characters, who have no reason to believe that the world will end if you don't ring the six bells of fate, but send you off to do it anyway. You may take on this quest or a number of other optional quests that involve finding items for the game's poorly designed, randomly placed characters. Or you may do the sensible thing and stop playing the game.

It's such a shame that there really is nothing of worth to be found here: The game's main mechanic, to combine your human form with your ball form in order to explore and reach difficult places really does have some potential. It's just not applied in a satisfying manner, and aimlessly wandering ‘round a MASSIVE map in search for something to do is just not a good game objective.

Knytt Underground was given away for free to PS Plus members on November 2012. It cost me zero dollars and still it felt like a waste.


Reviewer's Score: 2/10 | Originally Posted: 07/30/13

Game Release: Knytt Underground (US, 12/18/12)


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