Review

Knytt Underground

A Long, Fun Grind Without A Point
by Jeff Marchiafava on Jan 23, 2013 at 07:00 AM
Publisher: Ripstone
Developer: Nifflas' Games, Green Hill Studios
Release:
Rating: Mature
Reviewed on: PlayStation 3
Also on: PlayStation Vita

Indie developer Nicklas Nygren is known for creating unique and imaginative platformers, and his latest release is no exception. Knytt Underground mixes artsy visuals with novel gameplay mechanics and lets players loose to explore the largest Metroid-style world map I've ever seen. While the characters and puzzles held my attention for the long haul, the directionless narrative fumbles its way to a profoundly disappointing ending.

At the heart of the tale is a mute sprite named Mi Sprocket who is chosen to undergo an ancient quest to ring six bells in order to save her subterranean world, which is full of interesting lore and atypical characters. However, Knytt Underground's real draw is exploring the world. Mi's small but unique skill set, including the ability to morph into a ball and bounce off of surfaces, aids you in solving countless environmental puzzles. Most involve reaching a seemingly unattainable ledge or avoiding deadly enemies, and solutions rarely feel repetitive. One area involves using the momentum from a large fall to bounce your way to safety. Another requires chaining together a series of one-time use power-ups – like floating sideways until you hit an obstacle – to navigate multiple screens. Some areas are mazes filled with moving blocks and hidden paths. None of the solutions are mind-blowing, but they do make you feel clever from time to time.

Slowly but surely, the sprawling branches on your map fill out into a solid rectangle of more than a thousand rooms. Exploring every map cell becomes a grind and requires a lot of backtracking, but I was compelled to see what happened when I rung the final bell.

Unfortunately, the ending is an utter letdown. Nygren – who appears as an in-game character during the wrap-up – states outright that the adventure is more about the journey than the ending; I might have accepted that explanation if the game had at least tried to offer a meaningful conclusion, but the tongue-in-cheek ramblings the game offers instead are a miserable substitute.

Exploring Knytt Underground's vast world and learning about the eccentric cast of characters and surprisingly deep lore can be fun – just don't expect any kind of rewarding conclusion to be awaiting you at the end of your adventure.

7.5
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Game Informer's Review System
Concept Give players a huge, puzzle-filled world with strange characters and intriguing lore
Graphics Slapdash character art stands in stark contrast to the beautiful environments
Sound The music is great and helps define each area
Playability Aside from occasionally getting hung up on world geometry, the controls are tight and responsive. The game is also cross-buy compatible, and allows you to transfer saves between your PS3 and Vita
Entertainment The gameplay moves at its own pace and requires patience, and the lousy ending requires forgiveness
Replay Moderate