Developer: Ice-Pick Lodge
Release Date: October 4th, 2013
Available on: PC
Knock knock. Who’s there? A bad game.
It’s not often you’ll see me write a review like this. I like to try and find some kind of positives in the games I play. So it really pains me to say that Knock-Knock is easily one of the worst games I’ve played this year.
Knock-Knock puts you in the role of a man who’s spending his time studying at a lodge. They don’t really explain what he’s studying (something about the Earth?) or why he’s doing it at a lodge in the middle of the woods (Something about the family owning it?) but it really matters little. When the man tries to sleep he is instead assaulted by monsters that keep him awake, slowly draining his sanity. That’s about all I could figure out from the story, which decides to just leave tons of cryptic notes everywhere pretending it’s a story. I guess it’s trying to go with the best horror being the unexplainable, but there’s no coherence to get you through the game. Oddly enough, the game tries to excuse this away with a note in the beginning: Knock Knock is a found footage game of sorts. According to the note Ice-Pick Lodge just made the game because they got e-mails with everything inside telling them how to do it. I guess they’re trying to use this to excuse the glitches and unexplained nature of the game, but it’s not going to get them a free pass.
The game is broken into two segments, signified on the map by either an eye or a house. The eye chapters is where the real meat of the game play is, or at least the scraps trying to pass themselves off as meat is. Knock-Knock is a 2D horror game where you try to avoid and hide from monsters while waiting for dawn to come. Your only real defense against them is the ability to turn lights on in the rooms you are in, which sometimes gets rid of them (and sometimes teleports you to the start of the level for no real reason). While the only enemies in the starting chapters are big eyeballs that open up on the wall behind you, later chapters having moving enemies that will wander around and actively hunt you down. Enemies end up being a pain in the ass though: the second you’re on the same floor as them every enemy knows where you are and starts to hunt you. Good luck just avoiding them, the randomized layouts often leave only one or two exits to each floor from where you are.
Of course, you can try hiding. Once you turn a light on in a room if you stand still for a few moments in it you can see all the objects in the room. Some of the objects let you hide behind them and while you do you’re view gets very limited and you have to not “peek” at the monsters or you’ll get caught. This is a good idea in theory, but with all the time I spent with the game I could never figure out how on earth to control this view and the game never tells you. Sometimes when you see the objects in the room you’ll instead see a clock. If you interact with it you can speed up time until it becomes dawn. Before long you’ll find yourself praying that you just find a bunch of clocks and not deal with enemies anymore.
There’s really so much that drove me nuts with the game. Once I opened door and just died. Why? I don’t know. I just did. Guess I should have known that. Another time I opened a door and ended up in an endless hallway that I just wandered down until the level reset. Why? I don’t know. Why are some of the “scary” enemies full of things like a crate with pubic hair and legs? Or a ghost that looks like it was taken out of a children’s book? Or, and I’m dead serious about this, a tumbleweed? Why do I get teleported back to the beginning of the level when I turn a light on for some enemies, but other enemies just die? Why is there a voice asking me if anyone is home that sounds like it was taken from a speak and spell? Why are there full voice overs for the enemies but the main character speaks with some weird mumbled poorly recorded gibberish? Why do enemies have the ability to spawn directly on top of or next to me, killing me before I can even react? Why are enemies unable to hit me when I’m on a ladder, meaning you can seriously finish the game by going up and down on a ladder over and over again until you win? Why does my character stop any action he was taking so the game can suddenly zoom out and to another room and show a flash of lighting? And what does that even signify? Why does the main character take so damn long to screw in a light bulb, meaning if you’re doing it while an enemy is nearby you’re pretty much fucked? Why do the light bulbs blow if the the lights are still off? Why is every door in the house locked, meaning I’m dead if the game randomly decides to shut one near me? What do those white branches at the top of the screen mean? How come I can play while zoomed out if I do it with the mouse wheel, but not while holding down Q? Why does my character decide to interact with the eyeball in the background, killing me instantly, when I’m trying to interact with the light?
Before the eye segments drive me nuts any more let mention the house segments real quick. Where as the eye segments are a barfed up mess of unexplained and nonsensical design, the house segments are just boring pointless filler to pad the game out. Each home segment is the same thing. First you will turn each light in each room on and the player character will say something cryptic. Then you will be forced to go into the woods. Once you’re in the woods one of two things will happen. Either you’ll eventually find a girl, interact with her, and then be treated to a bizarre cutscene where nothing happens before being tasked to find the cabin again to end the house segment. Or you will randomly wander around the woods aimlessly until the game suddenly starts the next eye segment without warning. Either way it doesn’t really matter as it’s just boring filler.
I feel bad about this, but I really have no other way to put it. Knock-Knock is easily the worst game I’ve played this year, and I don’t have anything else to say about it.