Knock-Knock has an interesting backstory. Supposedly in November 2011 an anonymous e-mail was sent to Ice-Pick Lodge containing written documents, audio files, video fragments, among other mysterious assets. The stranger asked that the studio finish his/her work. Creative freedom would be given to Ice-Pick Lodge, but the attached files needed to be included with the game. Whether true or not I love the story and how it immediately creates a creepy tone surrounding the game. Who was this person? Is there something sinister hidden behind their work or were they just playing a joke? Is this story even real?
To build off of this story Knock-Knock plays entirely on what you perceive to be real. If you can’t see it does that mean that it exists? From the outset the game is covered in an incredibly unsettling atmosphere. You wake up in your home with everything in disarray. There’s cryptic writing on the walls, strange ornaments line the walls of the house, there’s a persistent knocking at the door, the wind is howling outside, footsteps can be heard in the floor above, and at times a young girl’s voice echos throughout the house. Who you are and what’s actually happening within your home serve to be the key mystery that builds throughout the game. Unfortunately the story doesn’t seem to go anywhere. You’ll find diary entries and read weird ‘game instructions’ between chapters that don’t seem to connect. Keeping things intentionally vague is fine, but I found myself losing interest pretty quick once I realized that the majority of the game relied on a fair amount of repetition.
Knock-Knock is split up between what I assume is the real and nightmare realms. In the real world you’ll explore your house and the forest outside. In these parts you might find diary entries to read or you might spot a creepy girl in the woods. In the nightmare realm you awake in a house (each time with a different layout) and must survive until dawn. To do this you’ll need to explore the house room-by-room and turn on/off the lights as you go. When turning on the lights you’ll need to wait for The Lodger’s eyes to focus in order for certain things to come into view. (I love this mechanic and wished the game built off of it a little more.) There are clocks shaped like your character that can be used to speed up time and certain objects in the house can be used to hide from unwanted guests. There seems to be an element of light management as well. Turning on lights is needed to explore the house and keep things in order, but you’ll also need to turn lights off just in case someone or something is watching/following you.
I don’t have a problem with being vague about things and allowing the player to figure everything out on their own, but it just didn’t work for me in the case of Knock-Knock. So much of the mechanics are left completely unexplained/vaguely hinted at that it can be hard to tell if you’re doing things right or wrong. Sometimes things will happen, like warping into an infinite hallway, and it’s totally unclear what you did to trigger that event. The constant descent into madness and losing grip on reality can play well into how vague the game is, but in the case of Knock-Knock it just becomes frustrating. There were a handful of times that a ghost spawned directly on top of me (no time to react) and I had to restart the level. In these instances I had no warning and no way to know that a ghost was about to spawn directly where I was standing. There’s never much progress lost in these cases, but ‘deaths’ like that felt unfair.
As the game went on my interest and connection to this world slowly drained. I love the atmosphere within Knock-Knock, the art direction works really well, and the descent into madness idea has potential. I just found myself not wanting to play anymore about four cycles into the game. Even though the house layout is random each time it just started to feel like I was going through the motions. Things never really progressed in a meaningful way and now I’m just left a little disappointed. It makes a great first impression, but it just feels like Knock-Knock is wasting a ton of potential.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here.
What I Like:
- Fantastic atmosphere
- Needing to wait for your eyes to adjust to the light to see objects is an interesting mechanic
What I Dislike:
- Way too vague in explaining game mechanics
- Despite being short the game starts to drag due to repetition
- Enemies spawning directly on top of me without warning