KNYTT
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Hardware: PC (WINDOWS)
Format: DOWNLOADABLE
Genre: PLATFORMING (2D)
Released: 2006
Publisher: NIFFLAS
Developer: NIFFLAS

By zinger / November 23, 2010

Here's a game that's basically just one long walk across a landscape that looks like it was made with MS Paint. It's shit. Actually, Knytt is so bad, so boring, so full of nothing, that it's hard for me to even know what to address, because there's barely anything there.

The game's engine is of the "platform" variety, but apart from walking and jumping, the only action your avatar can perform is climbing walls (by moving towards them and pressing up or down): essentially more walking, only vertically. So mostly, the game's about walking and jumping across lava pits. There are also a couple of enemies in the game (about 10) whose AI and movement patterns are about on the same level as Super Mario Brothers' goombas. What completely eliminates what little excitement these sorry action segments might have offered, though, is the absurd abundance of save points.

Losing a life (of which you have an infinite number) in Knytt means having to watch an ugly animation, and then being automatically respawned just a few hundred pixels away from where you died. Very annoying, and completely eliminates any concern you might have had for developing an agile, sophisticated approach to the obstacles you encounter (not that the engine, stage or enemy designs would allow for much of that anyway). The effect is comparable to that of most emulators' quick-save feature, something even as a teenager I finally understood only did the games harm.

There are certainly no puzzles or strategic challenges involved either, which means Knytt is pretty much challenge-free. All you do is walk around and collect things for your spaceship in order to fix it and finally get the hell away from the dreary environments. And sure enough, at the official website Nifflas (the developer) makes no pretension of Knytt being a good action game, nor a puzzle, strategy or role-playing game for that matter: "Knytt is a free platform game for Windows featuring exploration, atmosphere, and infinite cuteness". But even compared to games with heavy emphasis on exploration, such as Metroid (1986, that's 20 years ahead of Knytt!), Nifflas' work is severely lacking for a number of reasons — two above all:


The most exciting things about thoroughly exploring a game world are: 1) To slowly learn its workings, and, by drawing conclusions from your discoveries, figure out how to progress, and 2) To watch the world expand as you solve its riddles. The traditional way of constructing this type of game is with side-quests of the kind where you obtain an item or learn a new ability that enables you to advance (by acquiring for instance a double-jump move that enables you to go back and explore areas you couldn't reach before). But, as I've already mentioned, Knytt is completely puzzle-free, without so much as even a key to find, let alone any items or abilities that demand some creative use. If a passage doesn't direct you onwards or straight to one of the ten ship parts (or tools, or whatever they are) you need to find, it will either lead you back to a previous area or, which is the case more often, to a dead-end. Thus, Knytt is nothing more than a mere maze, and a simple one at that (you even have a compass that guides you to each of the items you are supposed to be looking for). What really takes the cake is when you've finally managed to collect everything and realize that you have to walk the exact same path back again, without a single variation!

The other reason for Knytt's failure in the exploration department is its poor visuals. The artists clearly don't know a thing about shading or anti-aliasing techniques, and that in addition to a terrible color palette gives the game an extremely simplistic and rough quality, quite reminiscent of a typical MS Paint drawing. It's also obvious that the small size of the character sprites is in part due to lack of a talented designer (fewer pixels means less potential for mistakes). Those few designs that still give away some more characteristics are ugly to the point where I almost feel my stomach turn watching them (check out the guy with big shoes walking across the jetty, haha!) If Knytt had been at least good-looking I could have always enjoyed progressing through its settings, and the dead-ends could perhaps at least have left me a memorable image or two, but that's definitely not the case.

The final thing I want to to address is the music. As it happens, I originally chanced upon Nifflas's name way back (I think eight years ago now) in the Mod Archive community: a repository for tracker-based music and a meeting place for tracker musicians. I sort of get the feeling that music is Nifflas' game, and that he was somehow inspired to make game music and therefore decided to make his own game (without having a clue what it takes to make a good one) and implement his music and that of his friends in it. It's true that the music (in the form of jingles, introduced to you as you discover new areas) is the least depressing element of all, but it only slightly manages to soothe the disgust inflicted by all the other factors. It is in no way exciting, unless perhaps you've never been to a lounge bar before.

There, so much for "exploration", "atmosphere", and "infinite cuteness". Even the game's rather mysterious title has been shamelessly stolen from Tove Jansson's excellent 1960 children's book Vem ska trösta knyttet? No, what stand out as Knytt's most obvious features are the walking, the lousy action scenarios and its ugliness. But hey, at least the game is free! Poor gamers of the world rejoice!
  

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