Review: Knytt

It’s interesting how the term ‘need’ is so readily applied to things that we simply desire. As such, by common parlance, what I really need right now is a stable internet connection, hence the distinct lack of updates over the past few months.  However, assuming that you, dear reader, lack such a problem: what you need is Knytt.

KnyttFor one thing, it’s entirely free. And as we all know, being free greatly heightens the need quotient of any item.

But even ignoring this, Knytt is an entirely necessary part of your life. It is – in the words of its author – a “platform game for Windows featuring exploration and atmosphere”.

There’s an important aside I must make here, before you continue reading. I hate platformers. They just don’t do anything for me. And yet I adore Knytt, down to the very last pixel. Why is this? The answer’s in the author’s statement: exploration and atmosphere.

You see the image adorning this article? That’s an in-game shot. Looks basic, doesn’t it.

What it fails to convey is just how much detail is pushed into every screen of the game – plenty of incidental activity in the backdrops, lovingly crafted areas to navigate and sparse but effective use of music and ambient sound all combine to make a wonderfully evocative game.

The tale is simple enough – you are The Knytt, you are abducted by an alien, the alien crash-lands and you have to collect together the missing parts of its UFO in order to return home. All of this is explained via a text-free opening – indeed the game conspicuously contains no in-game text at all, aside from its title.

The controls are equally simple – you can jump, climb up walls and move left or right. And nothing more. There is some aggressive wildlife in the game, but your only way of dealing with it is to avoid it – the game is nothing if not non-aggressive.

Using these simple controls you explore a pleasingly large world, working your way around trying to find the missing parts of the UFO – a task made less daunting by a handy beam of light which points you in the direction of the nearest part, a design-decision ripped wholly, and wisely, from Playstation 2 adventure Shadow of the Colossus.

Indeed, the atmosphere of the game, as you travel the world encountering various incidental areas – from villages in the clouds to subterranean ruins – is not dissimilar to that evoked in Shadow of the Colossus and its older brother, Ico – titles which the author openly admits to having been major influences. While this game lacks the moving tales underpinning those two titles, it manages to impress upon the gamer the same sense of scale and place, and this has to be its most impressive feat.

The game itself is short – an hour of gameplay is likely to see you to the end of the game – and is rarely frustrating. Only when collecting the final (furthest from the start) part of the UFO are you likely to encounter any real difficulty in navigating the map, and this is alleviated by a generous smattering of save-points in the area: generally no more than ten-seconds walk apart, and with the game so designed that saving is an entirely painless affair – simply pressing a single button as you pass over a save-point saves the game instantly and without fuss.

The game offers a short, but beautiful glimpse of a captivating world, and an hour’s relaxing gaming. An ideal chill-out title, one might wish for it to be a little longer, but any lengthening would risk breaking its simple perfection. And then, there are the secrets to find… it’s really a no-brainer: this is a game I’d be happy to recommend spending money on. For the price of freethere’s no excuse for not getting it.


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December 2006
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