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Review: Knytt Stories
Hello, and today I felt I had to write a review for one of the best click games I've played in a long, long time- Knytt Stories. As I've just downloaded and won this last night (and stayed up until 1:30am in the process!) it's still very fresh in my mind, so here goes:
Presentation is nothing short of amazing. I mean really well done. Easy to read / follow menu prompts. Fancy particle transition effects. And a really amazing tutorial as well. It was so well done that I'm going to go back and try to improve upon my own project. Very impressed. A 10 here.
It should be noted that this is the first time I've ever played one of Nifflas' games. I've heard about how good and how different they were, and I can assure you the things you've heard about this are all true. Knytt Stories manages to do a few things that I haven't seen in many games that I think are awesome. The story is short but direct: A large, evil machine is sucking the life out of the planet. And you'll really see this in action, too. The closer you get to the cave where this machine resides, the more dead-looking everything becomes. No more various wildlife that flourishes everywhere else in the game. Bleak colors. Dire music. So what does our hero need in order to save the world? Machine gun? Sword? Bombs? None of the above or even close. You are actually unarmed throughout the entire game. Knytt Stories plays out a lot like a Metroid game, but without the aresnal to back him up our guy needs to learn how to avoid his enemies to survive. Power-ups are aplenty, such as the always useful double jump, the better-than-you-might-think hologram projector, the distance-reaching slowfall umbrella, and the amazing wall climbing orb. The most useful one? Believe it or not, I found the enemy detection device to be the most needed while playing. You see, as slightly mentioned earlier, there are various forms of wildlife found throught the entire game. The problem is, sometimes you can't tell whether it's docile or dangerous. This is where the detector becomes invaluble. When near a deadly enemy (and they're all deadly- one hit and you're out) draws near, a faint red glow will surround the player, warning him. Simple, but oh so necessary! Although you will die quite often while exploring, this is never a huge deterrent because there are literally 50 or so save points everywhere. My advice: If you see one, save! This is most likely there because some new peril awaits you on the next screen, threatening to send you off to your maker in a puff of clouds.
Now I don't give two shits and a glass of lemonade about "OMG RELY OSSUM GRAFIX!!1!". I think in fact that this game's graphics might actually hurt its chances of being downloaded by the average fool on the internet who judges only by a game's looks. Knytt Stories just has to be played to really be appreciated. Static, random screenshots don't do it justice. What at first appears to be very simple graphics will suddenly transform themselves into a very believable and impressive world to explore. Particle effects are sparse, but extremely well placed. Everything has a very cutesy look to it, but will never make you want to stick your head in a bucket to puke either. Colors are sharp and important, because in this game color means life. Darkness and Blackness means death. So simple, so great! A special paragraph must be written about something very important in this game: Emotion. I can think of three times off the top of my head where a game has somehow shoved emotion into me while playing: 1.) The quiet planet infiltration sequence at the beginning of Super Metroid. 2.) The first time Link went outside in A Link to the Past when it's raining. 3.) The first time I saw the dark mountain region of Knytt Stories, with its empty expanse, howling wind and scattered dead leaves blowing about. This is really something. It made me feel like it was a cold fall day! Like when I was a little kid walking home from school. Truly amazing. But what surprised me most of all about the game is just how much of it doesn't have enemies in it. In fact, there's a lot of screens with almost nothing in them at all. And when you think about it, this is a lot more realistic than most games that cram enemies into each level "just because". I'd find myself saying "Now this is the coolest-looking part of the game" only to be saying it about 5 minutes later somewhere else. The snow world. The pitch-black cave. The underwater lab. The dead expanse. The windy mountain. It really is starting to all add up to be a real work of art, isn't it?
To tie it all together, Nifflas and co. wisely chose to incorporate some powerful music for Knytt Stories. It's not in your face rock. It's not beat you over the head techno. It's very atmospheric and almost new age-like. And it's very good. After playing this game for 5 minutes, you'll quickly see that no other music could ever be used for this game. Each area has its own compositions and you almost never hear the transition between two pieces because it's never jarring or distracting in any way. Superb.
At first I didn't know exactly what to expect. I had just finished working on my own project for about 4 hours last night and it was getting late. I figured I would finally install the game and play for a few minutes just to see what it was like. An hour and a half later I had won the game. It was amazing- I was so friggin' tired, but I just HAD to play the whole thing until it was over. And to top it off, when you do finally shut the game's evil machine down, your good work is noticed almost immediately as the world is brought back to life. It's very gradual, but powerful- A few flashes of light in the cave, and the water starts to look a bit fresher- until you finally return to your house and cherry blossoms are falling off the trees and the grass is green again. No more red skies. Wow! Best of all, they've included a powerful level editor for you to make your own adventures with. This is most likely where the "Stories" part of the title comes from: The adventure can live on for a long time through other players' creations they can make themselves. This alone boosts the lastability through the roof. I'm actually going to try and make my own when I get some free time this weekend :)
Lyle in Cube Sector is still my favorite click game, and for good reason. But while that game can be controller-smashingly hard at times, Knytt Stories never feels frustrating to play. It completely draws you into its little world, never really holding your hand or smacking it away. the simplistic graphics, excellent animation, wonderful music, genius presentation, and solid controls make for a near shoo-in for this year's GOTY award. And it has inspired me very much as a fellow game creator. Great Work guys!!!
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