Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Knock Knock (PS4)

Ice-Pick Lodge's debut console thriller, "Knock Knock" will no doubt strike a chord with many creepypasta, and urban legend fanatics around the world. Not only is it's gameplay psychologically horrifying, but it's also the type of game that makes you second guess yourself. In fact the introduction to the game which is typed in a sort of hypothetical series of quotes clues the gamer into such a creative direction, or possibly even the lack thereof. It basically states that the developers obtained instructions on how to make the game from an anonymous person, and that the game is best looked upon as an urban legend as well as played alone, and in the dark. When it comes to making sense of the game it definitely all depends on which way you choose to look at things. I personally think the reality behind the game lies on a deeper more psychological level meant to test our own rationalization skills.

The suggested "interactive" experience that lies within the digital confines of "Knock Knock" is eerily child-like, and borders on being stealth in design while including the need for proper understanding without overthinking things as well as actual platforming element knowledge. All of which is tied to the theme of irrational fears. At heart the game incorporates the passage of time, and everything horrific that the haunted mind can dream up within the nighttime hours. The creaking of floorboards, the flickering of lights, and voices in the dark will all play on your most primal fears. Your objective as it were, is to merely make it to dawn so that everything regains a sense of normality for the game's odd protagonist. I'd say that despite it's obvious trip into the psyche of the rather disturbed individual (aka, worldologist) it plays heavily on the key fear behind trying to rationalize irrational circumstances. Of course I too could be overthinking it all, and it could simply be a game to test areas of my own human nature as a gamer, and a fellow human being.

In "Knock Knock" you will awake from your slumber (many times over) in a mansion in the middle of a wooded landscape as an oddly scientist of sorts (world-ologist, guy who studies the world). Through his incoherent ramblings that occur ever so often the gamer will be clued into the fact that the sleep deprived individual is struggling to maintain his sanity, but that he is outright denying that he has an issue at the same time. Not only is his nighttime, and household filled with truly creepy terrors, and anxiety driven fears about someone looking in on him, but time doesn't exactly flow like it should when he awakes prematurely in the late night hours. As the gamer you yourself will be spying in on the oddly scientist in a sort of dollhouse point of view. He'll disclose all of his fears, and concerns as you guide him from room to room turning off, and on the hanging lights. The objective, as simple as it may seem is to get these vocal reactions from the sleep weary man, and to advance time by braving the many haunting sights of the mysterious mansion.

Throughout the game you will learn new mechanics of a limited sort which will in turn allow the game's protagonist to do a select few things to change his dire predicament. Despite looking like a "Paper Mario" RPG with all of it's 2D, and 3D elements you will find that pressing up, or down will cause the main character to go into the background, or foreground of the mansion interior rooms, or through the outside wooded areas. You can also make him walk left, and right through room doors (after opening them, if need be), and side to side through the nighttime forest. Other movement elements you'll be using will also allow for the ascension, and descent of ladder steps, or even entry into breached walls, or forward facing doors. In the way of stealth gameplay there will be certain moments after the light has been turned on (via "X") where the main character will close his eyes, and make furniture of varying sorts appear in the background. It is the illuminated furniture which appears that the protagonist can hide behind if a ghost begins to stalk him. Along with these basic mechanics also comes the ability to pan out from the constantly changing building, and look in at the other rooms as certain sound cues, or action events occur in them.

As far as the advancement of time goes you will find that the gameplay timer/clock will reset itself if you do not abide by the given rules. By "rules" I simply mean that this game is sort of like a child's game. Things like "Hide and Seek", and "Knock Knock, Who's There" will be incorporated in the story being told on a mild platforming level. To get from house to house, which are all basically versions of the protagonist's starting place, you will have to advance time by not running into, or getting seen by the ghostly apparitions that walk the rooms of the mansion. You'll also find clock statues that are revealed in certain rooms when the light is turned on which will speed up the time process making your job of survival all the more easy. The catch is that as you hide behind the revealed furniture from the ghouls, and ghosts time will reverse making your dreadful nighttime stay all the more lengthy. There's also the chance that being caught off guard by an ghost will immediately cause you to start over again, but in a randomly generated way. Things like doors being closed that once were not will occur, and the appearance of apparitions will differ the next time around as well. To avoid this you must pay attention to the rules that are written on a sheet of paper between level transitions. These clues as to what you are supposed to do don't spell everything out for you, but more so riddle your thoughts with some psychiatric psycho babble that only those in tune with their own psyche will comprehend. Simple games of "Hide and Seek" will not seem so simple anymore if you overthink things.

Through cryptic maps that look like they were drawn by a madman in a mental institution you will see your progress from house incarnation to house incarnation in the after level intermissions with midway stopping points that you'll have to figure out in order to advance further. The map of progress is depicted as being the protagonist's swelled head with a spiral containing house icons, and various other doodles pertaining to the levels that you will be playing through. There is a final destination, but getting to that point, or final understanding will be trying task if you do not major in psychology. As I said before this game is a deeply seeded psychological thriller meant to test someone's understanding of the situation. Whether that be the protagonist, or the gamer behind the controls only you will be able to find out. Can you brave the night, and your most irrational fears?

The Verdict ...

I honestly haven't played a game this intriguing in a LONG time. I'm a gamer who's all for games that make you see things in a different way, and "Knock Knock" definitely does that. Of course there is some hidden psychological testing going on, but the game itself (if you are able to properly understand it) can enlighten you. Dare I say it. The fact that it's the most creepy, and child-like psychological horror game I've ever played makes me like it even more. One might think that the quirky character animations would offset the fear, but it does not. You'll find every horror element imaginable incorporated in either the visual or audio elements of this game. From the creaking of the floorboards to the flickering of old lights, and even the eerie voices that will speak to you from dark corners of every room will put you on edge. As a horror fan, and a gamer I was pleasantly surprised with all that I found. I think you will be too should you be brave enough to pony up the dough, and buy this one-of-a-kind indie game! It is worth it! Do not miss out!!!

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