Something is going on in this game that taps into the other side, and not that pretty / flowery other side that good folks are sent to when they pass. I’m talking about the other side that reaches its hand into the realm of the living and touches us only when we are at our highest anxiety levels, inspiring some of our worst fears and least sane decisions. In Knock-Knock, players take the shoes of a restless man who deals with a presence in his home that can only be described as demonic.
You will find yourself blaming your own thoughts as if you are the one who has invited this presence to terrorize you. There are only a few things you can do to try and maintain sanity. Short of lighting up the house and turning your back to the horrific waking nightmare that is occurring, the player is subject to an experience that is possibly more terrifying than the recent releases in this genre. This is because at the same time you are playing the game, it’s really happening to you. That presence is reaching into your life and touching your soul with it’s cold fingers, whether you believe in its existence or not.
Story: As the main character struggles to provide himself with answers, they prove to be desperate excuses for what’s going on and serve as delirious justifications being grasped at in order to logically downplay the situation. Unfortunately, the player is unlikely to believe the character as he clearly does not even believe himself. The truth is always stranger than fiction. He mentions at an early point that he doesn’t want to remember the past, stating that it’s better staying in the dark. This is sort of an ironic thing to hear him say since the player is spending so much time turning on lights throughout the house, but he means mentally. Perhaps his mental darkness is part of why this spiritual darkness has began to consume his life nearly entirely.
The story of the game will be revealed slowly and though suspense is a welcome part of the game, it almost becomes agonizing towards the end of the introductory period. Right before that can happen, things really ramp up due to the main character realizing that his diary is not where he left it. Suddenly he starts remembering things and proclaiming them to the player. The majority of Knock-Knock’s story is told through reading scraps from out of the main character’s diary, while later in the game events begin to take place that are both auxiliary to the story as well as major plot twists.
Gameplay / Controls / Difficulty: Players will have to discern the mechanics of the game themselves, as much of them are not coherently explained in any way. Instead they are hinted at, learned through trial and error, and in some cases dumb luck. This gives a great sense of challenge and reward early on. The first couple of stages warm you up, then suddenly you realize that Knock-Knock is not quite as straightforward as its introduction seemed. Because of this, many of the game’s mechanics and the way they work are inherently spoilers of their own – so I won’t go into extreme depth and detail but rather I will evaluate them instead.
Once the player masters the basics of what must be done in order to progress from one stage to the next successfully, it becomes apparent that scanning each room constantly is necessary. This paranoid state eventually becomes in sync with that of the main character, leading the player to sympathize with the haunting (and/or, psychosis depending on your belief system) that he’s going through.
At times choices will be presented that set back the player’s progress, but feel necessary. For some strange reason, darkness is a compelling and gripping thing. The gameplay of Knock-Knock does well to play on this factor and contains elements that are mysterious. The controls are responsive and stay appropriate for the desired psychological effect on the player. The difficulty gradually climbs throughout the stages and is satisfyingly difficulty early on. Overall there is nothing to complain about as Knock-Knock is an entirely unique experience that really does feel like ‘CreepyPasta’ in real life, or at least in a video game.
Graphics / Art Direction: The Art Direction of Knock-Knock is dark and dreary, but is not afraid to include a few vibrant colors here and there. It’s refreshing to see a game use a decent range in their color palette even when adhering to the dark, washed out style of the horror genre. In some ways, the graphics of Knock-Knock make the experience as powerful as it is. It sometimes becomes a question if what you’re seeing is part of the game or if just imagined. The light from your candle swirls around on the walls in the dark, is the way its illumination dances with the shadows some form of communication between you and the devil himself?
Disclaimer: Ice-pick Lodge doesn’t directly indicate that “the devil” or any traditional “Satan” figure has anything to do with Knock-Knock, but trust me I play “high stakes” poker with the guy when I’m not using better judgement and he definitely had something to do with this game. By the way, spell-check requires me to capitalize “Satan”, I smell a conspiracy. According to Ice-pick Lodge, Knock-Knock is not necessarily a game at all but rather the result of their faithful execution of a series of instructions they received from an anonymous source.
Characters / Enemies: Each of the game’s enemies seems to be a part of one central entity which is shrouded in mystery but gives you the feeling that it’s quite powerful. The only way you can defeat it is by attempting to prevent it from overtaking your mind. This isn’t a game where the player is trying to survive at all costs, it’s more like a game where the spiritual and mental health of the main character is being challenged rather than that of his physical attributes. This character also hears a voice that seems to be aiding him, but other times it’s laughing at him or giving him advice that doesn’t pan out. Perhaps the demonic presence he’s up against is capable of hijacking this other “voice”, or perhaps it doesn’t really exist at all and is entirely a construct of his own thoughts, either as an audio hallucination or another form of communication from devilish sources.
Sound Effects / Music: As if the alternative forms of evil communication in Knock-Knock weren’t enough to get you going, perhaps even more directly obvious to many are the many subtle as well as pronounced forms of voice communication which occur as creaks, knocks, bumps, shatters, and sometimes words coming from the dark one’s breath as it enters the player’s life. The music in the game ‘pitter-patters’ its way in and out of certain moments, but the most deafening sound is the eerie silence presented in the game. Ever heard the saying “idle hands are the devil’s playground”? Well, if that’s what idle hands are, then idle ear drums are the devil’s congas. Knock-Knock’s audio quality is crystal clear and most of its perfectly balanced volume levels cause unexpected events to pierce through you, get your blood rushing, and make the player feel as if they’re in the same kind of terror as the main character.
Engine Performance: No glitches were experienced during our play-through of this game.
Replay Ability: Nothing ever happens the same way twice. Some players will want to experience the thrill of this ever-changing horror title over and over again, regardless of already knowing how it ultimately concludes. There are also many ways to play through the game through which you might miss something, so it’s worth doing multiple runs to ensure you’ve seen all there is to be seen.
Ice-pick Lodge has also made some effort to provide other compelling reasons to continue playing for a while in the form of Achievements. Since most of the Achievements are earned by accident while learning how to play the game though, the replay value of Knock-Knock is going to depend partially on how much you are intrigued by peaking your own fear / anxiety and how much you are interested in earning its more time-consuming achievements. The main achievement that will keep you playing is called “Knowing the Flip Side” and involves seeing “all fragments of reality”, which at the time of this Review’s posting 0% of Steam players have managed to do. All things considered, the Replay Ability of this game is pretty good and was accomplished without sacrificing the main vision of the project.
Knock-Knock is one of the most, if not the most creative entry in the now booming Horror video game genre. Unlike other genres Knock-Knock takes a fresh approach, extends its lore beyond the gameworld by luring us in to a CreepyPasta situation in which players are unsure exactly how real it all is. Ice-pick Lodge has successfully brought many elements of mysticism to the table and represented them well. Some of the elements in this game that are fed to the player’s subconscious are just as powerful as those that are seen with the plain eye. The gameplay is fun and the anxiety felt even long after the initial shock of what’s happening are maintained by great sound direction and what appears to be a heavily thought out system of randomization. Knock-Knock is highly recommended to all gamers and receives a Perfect 10 out of 10 making it an RGN Diamond Game.
Overall Score: 10/10
RGN Rating: Diamond Game
Developer / Publisher: Ice-pick Lodge
Available On: Windows PC / Mac OS X / Linux (via Steam)
Review Copy Info- A digital copy of this game was provided to RealGamerNewz by the publisher for the purpose of this review.