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Old 06-12-2010, 04:28 PM   #1
Bandango
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Free and Worth Every Penny - Issue 48: Knytt

Knytt

When I first stumbled into writing about indie games for Immortal Machines, itís safe to say that I had no idea what I was doing or talking about. Hell, I canít even claim that today. Still, Clayton ďVoodooĒ Cannon saw enough in my first FWEP to front page it on the now extinct Immortal Machines PC news page.

Early on it was hard to find new material to review. I didnít know the right places to look. I remember torrenting freeware packs and playing through batteries of mediocre games just to find a decent one. Google search was an indispensable ally, as were sites like Newgrounds and Armor Games. These days all I do (for the most part) is keep an eye on Jayisgames, TIGSource, Indie Games, etc. They save me the trouble of internet spelunking, but honestly, remove a bit of the adventure from the process.

When I dug around those initial freeware packs I might as well have been picking through fragments of amphorae in the waters off the coast of Greece. Despite the fact that the zipped gigabyte of indie games had been meticulously put together by someone far more knowledgeable about the subject than me, I still felt like some intrepid explorer, plunging the depths of the unknown for my own benefit and for the benefit of the column. Silly, I know.

One game I Ďdiscoveredí during those heady days has stuck with me longer than any other. Itís one of the only indie games I regularly revisit, and, as time goes by, my appreciation for it only grows. This little number raised my expectations of free. It made me realize that free games can be as good or better than the Ďrealí ones. And Iíve always wanted to write it up again because I feel like my original review didnít do it justice.

I donít know why I wrote that last paragraph like Iím about to surprise you with this gameís titleÖ but yeah, the game Iím talking about, as Iím sure youíve guessed by reading the title of the thread, is Knytt. And while Iím at it, Iíve decided to throw Knytt Stories in too.



Knytt is a side scrolling platformer that runs on exploration. A knytt, the curious, scurrying little fellow you control, is abducted by a UFO that promptly crash lands back onto the planet you came from. To return to your own home, you must help this hapless alien gather the components of his spacecraft that have, through a magnificent feat of physics, managed to scatter themselves across every corner of the meandering, seamless planet; tucking themselves away in subterranean caverns surrounded by impenetrable oceans, plopping themselves on the billowing bedrock of hamlets in the clouds, hiding themselves in the majestic ruins of a sprawling castle constructed by an uninhabited, crumbling kingdom. There are other places, all of which are beautiful, all populated by strange flora, filled with harmless NPCs who impassively exude stories that are never explicitly told. My favorite of these is a forlorn looking girl dangling her feet over the side of a cliff, overlooking a foggy lake. On the other side of the lake an even sadder looking man paces up and down a dock outside his house. Why? What happened between these two? Anything at all? The inclusion of these inconsequential details insinuate just enough story to jump-start your imagination. Knytt is full of these details.


And thatís the point of Knytt; exploring, seeing, imagining. Frustration is nearly nonexistent. If you canít find, for now, the ship piece youíre looking for, move on, smell the roses, find a different one. Canít make a tough jump? Forget about it and move on to the next locale. No tile set is repeated for more than a couple of screens, and each is so richly colored and textured and different from the last as to give the impression of a trip around the globe. Youíll pass ecosystems and villages that exist solely to inspire wonder. In me, they do.

Your knytt can do only three things. He runs, jumps, and clings to walls. From the moment you enter the world, every inch of it is accessible to you. The only things that stand in your way are minor, and sometimes not so minor, feats of platforming. Appreciation for the geometrical, cross hatched beauty of your surroundings is not inhibited by screens full of enemies or complicated play mechanics. Impeccable musical cues and sweeping, ambient background noise compliment each environment perfectly, and the pitter patter of your knyttís footfalls provides a soft, syncopated percussion that holds all the sounds together.


Knytt Stories is a departure from the original. It adopts a metroidvania philosophy. Instead of collecting ship pieces scattered across the land, you gather orbs that grant your knytt different powers that grant access to areas previously unreachable, which in turn reward you with new orbs and powers, which allow entrance other unreachable ledges, etc. While this is fun, I found the pure simplicity of Knyttís platforming more fulfilling that Knytt Storiesí take. Power ups are cool, but getting somewhere with nothing more than a good jump is particularly satisfying. Also, the power ups remove the non linearity of the original, which is tragic.

Knytt Stories also has its fair share of ambient life and interesting ecosystems, but theyíre not as dreamlike as the originalís. If you play through Knytt (which you better) and are left feeling like you need more, than give Stories a try. But you must start with the first. Itís a dream of a game, one of a very few that Iíve actually dreamt about myself.

Knytt is (to borrow the bullets from my original review):
  • incredibly atmospheric to the point of being breathable.
  • accessible to the extreme.
  • perfect for running in the background at work.

Download it here:
http://nifflas.ni2.se/?page=Knytt
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Old 06-13-2010, 05:12 AM   #2
muddi900
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I don't know what to do in this game. Find the pieces, what pieces? I just like pretty pictures.
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Old 06-13-2010, 10:00 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by muddi900 View Post
I don't know what to do in this game. Find the pieces, what pieces? I just like pretty pictures.
Yay! Somebody played it. Just follow the glowing line and mill around until find stuff.
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Old 06-13-2010, 10:57 AM   #4
destoo
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That game, Within a Deep Forest, and Knytt Stories are all awesome.
There's a version of Knytt Stories for the DS, too.

Last edited by destoo; 06-14-2010 at 09:45 PM.
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Old 06-14-2010, 12:20 AM   #5
LongStepMantis
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I tried to play this right before bed yesterday. Not advisable.

The calm nature of the game put me to sleep twice. Then, probably because I was too out of it to realize what I was doing, I got stuck in a room with no apparent way to escape.

The one thing that keeps killing me is that I evidently want WASD for movement and the arrows for jump. Again, probably from being tired, half of my jumps ended in death because I've trained myself that my left hand controls movement. Overall, still entertaining. Now to try it when I'm not partially retarded from sleep deprivation.
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