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knytt Stories

October 27, 2009

knytt3Knytt Stories is an independant game created by game designer Niflas, with a simple but fairly powerful program called The Games Factory. I played this game a while ago and recently revisited it, only now realizing how enamored I am with it. If you’ve every played a Metroid game, you’ll be instantly familiar with the style of gameplay: You explore vast areas, and find new items which let you progress deeper into the world. However, Knytt only uses this style as a baseline, throwing in it’s own twists.

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Welcome to Knytt

For starters, there’s no combat in the game; No fighting whatsoever. This takes the emphasis off of battling foes, and places it on platforming and exploration. This is an enormous strength, and adds greatly to the atmosphere, which I’ll get into later. Even though there are no fights in the game, that doesn’t mean there aren’t enemies. The only way that you can deal with enemies is to find unique was of getting past them, rather than blasting your way through. I found this to be a great way of keeping a sense of conflict and light challenge in the game without taking the focus off of exploration. There is a very large variety of baddies in the game, so each time you face one it’s a new and exiting challenge. They never get too difficult though. The only real problem with the enemies is that they can resemble the ambient creatures (snails, slugs) very closely, so that it becomes possible to confuse the dangerous foes from the friendly animals. Thankfully, it never becomes too big of an issue.

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This enemy jumps every time you do, making for an interesting challange

So, there are enemies in the game, but the heart of Knytt Stories is the exploration. You are thrust into a strange world, and left to wander the mysterious land with no map or real sense of direction. This sets up the mood of the game, which I find to be one of the best traits (if not the best trait) of the game. The real star of the show is the striking visual style, complemented by an outstanding ambient soundtrack. The graphics in the game are composed entirely of pixel art, and it suits the game well. The backgrounds are amazingly detailed, and differ greatly creating a sense of progression. Just the sheer number of different environment is one of the most impressive parts, epically considering that Knytt is a single open world, not multiple levels. Each new area is as or more beautiful than the last. Even though the backgrounds change frequently, the style remains constant (foreground objects are all outlined in black for example) throughout the game. The music is just as mysterious as the world itself, and does a great job of providing the mood. Here’s a sample of the music in Knytt Stories if you care to listen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AU0C_l1H904.

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The art direction is fantastic

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There are many differnt background themes within the world of Knytt

So, under the amazing visuals and great music there actually is a game, believe it or not. There are a number of items to collect in Knytt Stories, including objects that make you jump higher, glide, climb and more. You progress through the game by finding these items, and use their powers to lead to to previously inexpressible areas. The game does a great job of making this old concept feel fresh. First of all, even though the world is enormous, you never receive a map. This might seem like it would only confuse things, but it actually lifts what would otherwise be a burden on the player. You are always headed somewhere, and if you come across a fork in the road, you pick a direction; Everything leads to somewhere. The design is set up very well, and as a result you nearly always feel like you know where to head next, even though there is no clear indication of where to go. This gameplay element keeps the focus on moving forward, and as a result you are never just wandering around or lost.

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There's always something to do, or somewhere to go

The challenge in this game is very light, mainly because of the constant checkpoints. Every couple of screens there is an area where you can instantaneously save and keep pressing forward. I’ve found that this does two things. It keeps the game free of frustration, which is great, but also just creates a more relaxed experience. This is not a game that’ll make you sweat; this a game that you go through slowly and absorb. There is challenge, but it never gets to a very extreme level, and there is no punishment for dying. The main way that the game challenges you is with light platforming segments. This keeps you from “zoning out” and makes you pay attention without getting frustrated. You also get a great sense of accomplishment when you are able to breeze through previous challenges because of new items.

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This is an interesting platform challange, but it becomes much easier on the way back when you have the double jump

Knytt stories is an original and atmospheric game that should not be ignored just because it doesn’t have enough content to be a full retail game. It’s fun, pretty, and well designed. What more do you want? There is also downloadable content to keep you satisfied for a long time, or if you want to return to it after a while like I did. Oh, and a level editor to create and share your own Knytt creations. Oh, right, and its free. So, what are you waiting for, go download this game already.

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