- Platform PS3, PSVita, PC, Wii U
- Publisher Ripstone
- Developer Nifflas' Games
- Release Date 01/12/2012
Knytt Underground Review
Take a wonderful journey into the depths below.
First of all, if you haven’t already, then make sure you play through Nifflas’ legendary free indie titles Knytt, Knytt Stories and Within A Deep Forest, as they will boost your enjoyment of this new game tenfold.
There are games, and then there are Nifflas’ Games, manned by Nicklas Nygren, somewhat of a veteran on the indie scene. Now, he has his first game for the PlayStation Network, Knytt Underground, the third installment in his cult Knytt series, and as you can tell by that first statement, this is going to be a glowing review. Knytt Underground is not only a logical extension of Nifflas’ previous games, it’s quite simply one of the greatest exploration-based games ever made.
Playing Knytt Underground is like reading an engrossing novel; you want to keep revealing new pages, learn more about the characters and unravel the secrets that they and their surroundings hold. Oh, and the fact that you simply won’t be able to put this game down.
You play as Mi Sprocket, a sprite who has been tasked with saving the world by ringing six bells, which will apparently stave off armageddon for another six hundred years. The great thing about the plot of Knytt Underground is that it takes such a lackadaisical story and turns it on its head.
Angel On My Shoulder
The world Mi occupies (known as the undergrounds) is brimming with detail. As stated earlier, various societies, villages and religions inhabit this amazingly large place, and most of the NPCs here have a reason to existence beyond just filling up space.
The world you’ll explore is full of individuals who have their own beliefs and religions, on top of personality traits, family matters and the like. Some will encourage you on your quest of salvation, whilst others may tell you it’s all mythical crap. This reaches an ultimatum in the form of Dora and Cilia, two fairies that follow Mi around on her journey and who talk for her in her place. You see, Mi is mute, and these two are essentially a play on the human conscience.
When initiating dialog with someone, the player will often get to choose which fairy to speak in Mi’s place; Dora is encouraging and kind, whilst Cilia is more adventurous and can often be quite harsh. Initially, you may only stick to one fairy to do the talking for you, but as you explore more of the world, their backstories begin to flesh out and you’ll feel a genuine bond between them. Mi is very much a metaphor for the player themselves; able to only alter the world through actions, not words.
The world Mi occupies (known as the undergrounds) is brimming with detail. As stated earlier, various societies, villages and religions inhabit this amazingly large place, and most of the NPCs here have a reason to existence beyond just filling up space. They themselves are part of these homesteads and are simply living their lives the way they have chosen to. This is a key theme in Knytt Underground; many of the undergrounds’ inhabitants argue against the notion of the end of the world, and the objective of Mi’s quest actually takes a backseat to dilemmas that are much closer to home, such as what people think of one another, how they react towards various beliefs, dwelling on past mistakes and so on. It’s a game that manages to present philosophy in a way that avoids being pretentious, and actively gets the player thinking (often quite deeply) about the undergrounds and its inhabitants. This is without a doubt one of the most absorbing overworlds in gaming history.
Knytt Underground is completely non-linear. There are two introductory chapters to get you suited to Mi’s various abilities, with the third chapter essentially being the whole game. The only task that is required of you here is to ring the six bells located around the map. This puts the main focus on exploring the colossal map, which has well over 1,500 individual rooms. At first, this seems incredibly daunting, as your map reveals the first of the tiny blue squares which represent each room. However, once you’ve become reasonably skilled in the ways of Mi, you’ll find that exploration is an absolute joy, and this will keep you coming back.
Mi herself is more than prepared for the obstacles that face her on her journey. She can jump a modest distance, and scale any vertical surface with incredible ease. However, her most striking ability transforms her into a bouncing ball, capable of bouncing higher and moving slightly faster. The ball’s physics are more or less the same as in Within A Deep Forest, so fans of that game will feel right at home here. Mi’s normal and ball forms can be switched on the fly at any time, and many of the landscape’s puzzles require the player to switch between the forms efficiently. In addition to this, there are temporary power-ups Mi can pick up which will allow her to reach otherwise unreachable areas.
Rooms Of Wonder
Knytt Underground is a breathtakingly gorgeous game and follows the series’ tradition of presenting quaint yet striking landscapes. This time around, Nifflas has ditched pixel art for photo-realism, and the results are surprisingly effective. The foreground that Mi explores is almost exclusively black, which allows the photorealistic backgrounds to stand out in a way that evokes feeling.
Each type of area naturally has a different feel to it: nature-themed areas such as forests and gardens feature plants and trees that gently sway in the breeze. Caves and caverns can make the player feel alone and desperate to see the light again. There are even areas that are technologically advanced compared to the more natural places, such as a laboratory and a steampunk-themed area. The undergrounds are huge, but you’ll want to explore the whole map just to see what each area looks like, and maybe even how they will make you feel.
Sometimes it’s nice just to relax and explore the game at a leisurely pace. Of course, there are robots and natural hazards that will sometimes stand in your way, but nevertheless, Knytt Underground is an absolute joy to play and explore. One last note is that the game is chock-full of secrets. Most of them are incredibly hard to find and require a level of dedication higher than most games to find. (Or a quick trip to the internet, depending on your tolerance for well-hidden surprises.) I’d clock completion time at around 10-15 hours, and that’s without 100% exploration and easter egg hunting. If that’s your cup of tea, then add maybe another 15 hours on top of that.
Knytt Underground is a must-play, it’s as simple as that. The game presents an engaging and debatable story full of personality and charm, with solid game mechanics to match. Mi is one of the most fun characters to control in any side-scrolling game of recent memory, and her ability to switch between two radically different forms at any time is a fresh concept that encourages exploration. The visuals are mesmerising and evoke feeling and are accompanied by a stunning musical score that changes based on your location. All in all, Knytt Underground is the perfect indie package; the amount of time it takes to see everything the game has to offer rivals that of many retail RPGs. All this combined gives way to a game that must be played to be believed. Words don’t do this one justice.
Knytt Underground really is a faultless game. The map system is occasionally daunting and marginally confusing, but the world you find yourself in is so mesmerising that it's easy to forget about it. Added to the fact that it's immensely fun to play and packs a degree of challenge, and you have an instant classic. Pick this one up.