I have had Knock-Knock installed on my PC for quite a while now. I have played a great deal of it in this time. I have viewed forums and message boards discussing the game, and have done a good amount of research on it. As I am writing this review, I’m still at a loss for what to say about my experience, but let me try to explain it in the best of my ability. Here is what I think of Ice-Pick Lodge’s indie title, Knock-Knock.
The player controls a man known as The Lodger. Every night, he wakes up from his slumber to strange noises and his own imagination. He must check every room in his home to make sure everything is fine and in order. During the night, he has these monsters known as Visitors invade his ever growing home. The objective is to survive the night and make it until the break of dawn. That is the overlaying mechanic for Knock-Knock.
The 2D title had me moving the Lodger through rooms as he turns on lights to observe the area. When a light is turned on, the Lodger closes his eyes and allows them to adjust to the lit up room. When his eyes adjust, furniture and other items appear in the room. Some of these items are objects he can hide behind. Turing on lights and moving from room to room is pretty much what I did throughout.
The game revolves around a time system. The night slowly passes by while moving around the home. There are special clocks that can be found in certain rooms that progress time faster. Of course, sometimes this means going into a room that has a visitor in it. If the Lodger touches a visitor, the night timer goes back. That means getting hit by enemies will result in having to survive even longer. If the time counter goes all the way back to the beginning, I was forced to retry the level. In order to combat this, I had to hide from the visitors using the items and furniture uncovered during investigation of the house. While in hiding, time slowly reverses, adding more to the timer before dawn. Breaches in the home will appear and it was up to me to make them go away by lighting up the room.
Each level has a new house with different rooms and room placement. It feels randomly generated, but after retrying a level over and over again, I realized it all felt the same after a while. You see, the problem with Knock-Knock is the fact that nothing is truly explained from both a story and a game play perspective. The game play is vaguely told through a series of dialogs the Lodger said to me while the story is told through cryptic notes and messages I found while traversing the house and woods beyond the home.
That’s where most of my frustrations come into light. Since nothing is explained in detail, it was up to me to figure out what exactly to do. Even though the mechanics are simplistic with only using the directional keys along with the spacebar, trying to navigate the home while figuring out what certain things meant was a chore.
After an hour of replaying the same level, I went to forums to see what I was doing wrong. Apparently, I’m not the only one having problems. A good example is sometimes while investigating the house; the camera will zoom out and zoom back in to another room I was not in. I have no idea what that meant. Did it mean I needed to get there fast and stop a breach or did it mean that was where enemies were?
Breaches were another confusing ordeal. During the vague dialog, I was under the impression that light was good and that illuminating a room would make everything normal again. Well, imagine how confused I was when I was being chased by a visitor and when I turned on a light in the next room while they were in it with me, it did damage. I thought turning on the lights was a good thing. I guess only when enemies are not in the room with me. The same goes for the breaches. Even though breaches are bad and they spawn enemies, if I turned on a light to get rid of it, it still did damage to me.
Granted, there is another aspect to the breaches. The player can choose to go into them. When this happens, the Lodger is in a long corridor with numerous doors. None of this is explained so I began going into the doors. After a few leading to other corridors, I was taken back to the over world map like I had died and had to start the level over again. I was so confused. Supposedly, there are things in the woods and things in the breach corridors that can be found, but I only around two things. And when going into a breach could mean a potential restart of the level, I decided not to go into them anymore.
Somehow, I made it to the end of the game. Come to find out, I guess I was being timed and didn’t know it. So after completing the final level, I was shown a bad ending. It may have been the good ending. I can’t really tell. So, my bumbling around for hours trying to find out how to play this game was penalized by the game itself. I didn’t even know it was a timed mission until I finished it and looked at some forums trying to get some answers.
The visual art style is the best thing about Knock Knock. The overall presentation is well done. The hand-drawn characters and animations are also impressive and the lighting effects are superb. The audio is another standout. The lightning strikes and sudden beating on a door made me jump a few times and the constant whispering that I heard telling me not to move or “They know where you are.” was creepy as well.
Unfortunately, the game is an ambiguous mess. Even with a simplistic structure, it was overly difficult even in the introductory levels. Maybe with some better explanations on the mechanics and a more fleshed out story, it could have been a unique title. What it really boils down to is a confusing, convoluted set of ideas that never really pan out over the course of the experience. Aside from the presentation and art style, there is really no way I could suggest Knock-Knock to players. Unless you really enjoy trial and error game play and confusing mechanics that aren’t explained, you may want to stay away.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.