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Knytt Stories (PC) artwork

Knytt Stories (PC) review

"Knytt Stories is a little hard to define because it's not technically a game. In actuality, it's a custom made level editor built by freeware genius Nifflas, the guy behind Within a Deep Forest and the original Knytt. He then used that level editor to build a simple story about a girl named Juni, prefacing it with the following: "

Knytt Stories is a little hard to define because it's not technically a game. In actuality, it's a custom made level editor built by freeware genius Nifflas, the guy behind Within a Deep Forest and the original Knytt. He then used that level editor to build a simple story about a girl named Juni, prefacing it with the following:

"Among Knytts and other creatures, many stories about Juni are being told. Although the stories often make very little sense - many of them often contradicting each other - a small number of them are known to be partially true. This is one of those stories."

That first story, called The Machine, is honestly pretty spectacular even as a stand alone game. The Machine (and actually all of Knytt Stories) is a puzzle platformer where you have to work your way from beginning to end with basically no prodding from the writers. From your starting point the map extends in literally every direction, and it's up to you to explore your way to the end, wherever that is.

Along the way you'll find token powerups that let you claw your way ever deeper into the labyrinthine paths of a very strange world. You'll learn to climb sheer walls and jump a second time in midair. You'll find an umbrella that you can use to ride on air currents, and you'll become able to see ghosts and obstacles invisible to the naked eye. All of the abilities are immediately useful. With each skill you acquire the world becomes a little bigger when you put them to use in finding your way to the next item. However there is something missing, something that you'll never be able to do.

You'll never learn how to destroy your foes with bigger, flashier explosions. Truthfully, you'll never learn to destroy your foes at all. Knytt isn't that sort of game, it's a platformer in the truest sense. While you'll platform on rocks, trees, girders, clouds, and anything else that looks like it might hold your weight, you will do so without ever killing anything.

That's part of the charm, really. In a game about a journey, there doesn't necessarily need to be a lot of violence. The passive nature of your character enhances the need for quick reflexes and sharp senses. It makes you more wary of what lurks around the next corner, and adds just a touch of tension to what is otherwise a pretty relaxed experience. It also shouldn't require much to explain how this improves the game's challenge.

Sure it isn't pretty in the way that Squaresoft games are pretty, but it's undoubtedly ambient. Everything is simplistically drawn, but there's complexity in the way the backgrounds extend off into the distance. Knytt's color palette is unusual and charming, and its music sets the tone perfectly whether you're in an underwater laboratory or being assaulted by ninjas on a training field littered with deadly spikes.

You will see blighted lands ravaged by a terrible machine that sucks the very life from the ground. Your quest to deactivate the machine will take you from the heights of snow capped mountaintops to the depths of caves carved out by flowing waterfalls. A quiet village in the mountains is only a few screens away from an eerie land where ghosts flit listlessly amongst dying trees and darkness. You'll experience a lot in an hour and a half.

I suppose it could technically be considered a flaw that the whole story can be beaten in about the time it takes to watch a movie, but it's okay because Knytt Stories is not just a game. Since its release an official expansion has added an additional four stories. Beyond that there's a mass of player made levels to explore as well, and while reviewing all of that would be like reviewing the Encyclopedia Brittanica article by article, suffice to say it gives more content than we have any right to expect from a free game.

And when the stories finally come to an end, it's still not over. When the official levels lose their luster and you've explored every corner of every story to wring that last bit of enjoyment out of the game, then maybe you'll be ready to add your own tale to the Knytt Stories.


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Community review by dragoon_of_infinity (July 01, 2009)

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