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I went into Knytt Underground blind. I had no idea what it was about, who the protagonist was and what the story is about. I’ve come out the end of it asking myself more questions than I did at the start. Admittedly, I read other reviews of the game before I started this one, just to affirm that I wasn’t the only one feeling a little muddled about the experience, and, on the whole, that’s how I would describe Knytt Underground. A wonderful, bizarre experience.

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A passing glance at the game will probably leave most onlookers confused and they’ll dismiss it as a standard indie game. “2D Platformer? Check. Limbo-esque art style? Check. Little to no story? Check.” That’s not to say the game doesn’t have any atmosphere, quite the opposite in fact. The game contains a backing soundtrack that reminds me of entering the Forest Temple in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time again, or some of the locations in Majora’s Mask, furthermore, just like the latter, I always felt that there was some type of impending doom upon the world (the humongous world that opens up in Chapter 3). I wasn’t quite sure why, because, apart from being told about ringing six bells to save the world or something, I didn’t really know what was going on. Ultimately this is my biggest gripe with the game. I can play games with no story just fine, I can play games with weird, convoluted and insane stories (looking at you, Metal Gear Solid) just fine too, but I didn’t feel I was doing anything in Knytt Underground. Just wondering, searching for more NPCs to complete their inane quests.

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But, and a big but (no laughing please), I could be viewing this game from the wrong perspective. I could be searching for a story in Tetris and achieve the same results, maybe there is something deeper here, something that the student in me wants to write an essay about. Something about a deeper message; Knytt Underground’s subtle message. Maybe there’s an idea to explore here instead.

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The protagonist you control is called “Mi” who’s a mute, representing the player not being able to speak with the characters, and the name “Mi” obviously referring to me, the player. You control Mi as they jump and run (and bounce, we’ll come to that in a bit) around their environments, which is an area the game can easily boast about. You jump to a wall and you’ll stick to it and be able to climb up and down with ease. Later on in the game, you obtain the ability to become a ball (I’m as confused as you are, but that’s okay), and suddenly the world around you opens up, as you can only access some areas by bouncing and then quickly transforming back into your normal state.

Every Metroid-like room is a challenge, some harder than others, but never strong enough to make you feel disheartened. There’s variety too, some rooms are tighter than others, some offering multiple paths and ways to get around, even better is that there’s over 1,800 of them. It’s a great balance between skill and fun, tackling different environmental hazards and obstacles, using robots’ electricity to guide your sentient ball-self to a higher platform. It’s an eccentric journey which is the shining star of this game. You want to get lost, to explore, to go on an adventure; this is gaming at its purest.

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Knytt Underground is like trying to sell butter. You’re not sure why people buy it, you just do,after all it makes sandwiches better. Knytt Underground makes your gaming system better. From a gameplay viewpoint, the game is brilliant with a lovely little physics engine to go along with it. Those wishing for a good story will be left disappointed, but there’s some quirky undertones that pair up with the game wonderfully, when it finished, you’ll be left thinking (and thinking is good); the focus here however, is the journey. A helpful, easy to access map will be sure to tell you where you’ve visited and where to go, which you’ll be needing for the backtracking and exploring that you’ll be doing, mirroring every indie developer’s best friend, “Metroidvania”.

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An enchanting game that’s all about the journey and not the reward. There’s no possible way to stick this with a “good” or “bad” label. Refined gameplay mechanics make a great platformer, coupled with some lovely graphics and a wonderful soundtrack, . The Wii U version that I reviewed here features Off-TV play and the ability to display the map on the GamePad.  I would recommend Knytt Underground for the inquisitive player. You won’t be left with a huge reward, but maybe something to think about, which can be just as valuable.

 All images obtained from press pack.



Author

Daniel Switzer
Daniel Switzer

@PushStartMedia editor and Nintendo specialist.