With Halloween fast approaching and getting things prepared for a cast specifically on horror, I was in the mood for a new horror game and it appeared that the latest game from Ice Pick Lodge: Knock-Knock would fit the bill.
Ice Pick Lodge has made a name for themselves with very unique games that polarizes the people that play. With Knock-Knock, they have managed to create their most accessible, inaccessible game yet and if you could follow that, then you’re in the right mood for this game.
Who’s There? :
Knock-Knock is one of those games where the whole experience is not just the story, but figuring out the game. And because of that, it means that I’m going to be spoiling some element of it no matter how vague I am.
You play as a lodger in a cabin in the woods where strange things are happening. Every night, he wakes up from noises inside his house which appears to change. His only goal is to stay sane and awake until dawn when whatever is out there, seems to disappear.
The game’s art style is simple, but has a great aesthetic and looks like old fairy tale drawings. And the random noises are sure to scare the hell out of you while you’re playing.
The controls are simple enough: you can interact with objects and move around. In order to survive the night, you need to repair the lights in each room of your cabin. Doing so will provide you with safety and spawn objects sometimes for you to hide behind.
At random times throughout the night, the power will be knocked out in a room, forcing you to run and repair it before “something” comes in. Survive until morning and you’ll be able to take a quick walk outside before the next night, when the cabin changes again and you’ll be forced to survive.
Keeping with Ice Pick Lodge’s style, outside of the basic controls there are no instructions or guidelines for what the rules of the game are. Any hints are given out by random notes and the mumblings of the lodger.
Thinking about Knock-Knock more, the idea of being stuck in a house with no lights takes me back to a nightmare I had a child and is an interesting setting for a horror game.
Having the game randomly decide when and where “things” will happen was a smart move and something that I’ve wanted to see from the horror genre.
However, while Knock-Knock features a great theme and aesthetic, it’s the gameplay where it loses me.
Hiding Under the Bed:
The problem with Knock-Knock‘s gameplay goes back to Ice Pick Lodge’s philosophy of creating unique stories and experiences, with gameplay a distant third. The gameplay of Knock-Knock is very basic and there just isn’t a lot for the player to do.
And what’s there for the player is not really explained and left for the player to learn through failure. There are rules at play for how the world works, but it’s on you to figure out what things will kill you and what things won’t.
I ran into frustration with not understanding what I was supposed to be doing and after failing the third stage several times due not being able to hide correctly, I lost any notion of fear. The problem with Knock-Knock is the same issue that I had with their previous game: The Void — That the game wasn’t challenging due to complex mechanics, but because you simply didn’t know what you were supposed to be doing.
And for someone like me who prefers mechanics that offer a lot of depth, I have to put it out there and say that Knock-Knock is just not my cup of tea. Now that’s not to say that you should avoid this, as Ice Pick Lodge’s games as mentioned are often polarized experiences.
I’m willing to bet that there are people who will put Knock-Knock on their best of list for this year and there are people who will play it once or twice and never look at it again. As far as horror goes, Knock-Knock does a lot of things right with the mood and design, I just wish that the gameplay was just as inventive.