Review: Knytt Underground for PS Vita

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Title: Knytt Underground
Price: $14.99
System(s): PS Vita (Also available on PS3 and Windows, part of cross-buy PS3/PSV promotion)
Release Date: December 18, 2012
Publisher (Developer): Ripstone (nifflas, Green Hill)
ESRB Rating: “Mature” for Sexual Themes and Strong Language

If you’re into the independent gaming scene, you know who Nicklas “Nifflas” Nygren is. He’s a frequent contributor of freeware and paid games, with six major releases so far. Even people who don’t typically get into indies has likely at least heard of NightSky. His latest release is Knytt Underground, a huge endeavor which makes all of his other games seem small in comparison and that’s a pretty big feat. Knytt Underground successfully carries on the Knytt series legacy while also implementing some Within a Deep Forest moves to make for an exploration adventure that looks incredible on the Vita.

Knytt Underground

Do you hear the bells? No? Well, that’s because Mi Sprocket hasn’t rung them yet.

In Knytt Underground, humans are gone. What happened to them? No one really knows. Now the world is completely inhabited by various sprites, gnomes, fairies and other mythological creatures. They have their own subterranian world and belief systems. One of these beliefs is that the world will end if six bells aren’t rung every couple hundred years.

Now the end of the world may be approaching and Mi, one of these underground denizens, has been chosen and tasked with ringing the bells. Though she’s mute, she has two fairy friends who can help speak for her and the ability to transform into a ball to bounce and jump her way to hidden paths.

There’s no sense of urgency, however. While the bells locations are marked on the map from the start of Mi’s adventure, all other areas are a mystery. She’ll have to run, jump, climb, bounce and use special glowing orbs to complete her quest. Think carefully though, because Mi is a pacifist and doesn’t have any attacks. Not that she’d need to, since danger poses no threat. Mi will just re-spawn in an area if she is killed by an enemy.

knytt underground

1,800 rooms means lots of exploration

Though Knytt Underground may combine gameplay elements from Knytt, Knytt Stories and Within a Deep Forest, the overall experience is incredibly similar to Knytt Stories. This is because the whole point of Knytt Underground is to explore a cavernous world. Once players get past the first two tutorial chapters that provide a bit of backstory and how to play the game, they’re given all of the skills needed to reach every area in the incredibly lengthy third chapter. The whole map is accessible, though some areas do require a toll to be paid or extensive platforming skills to be used in order to gain access.

That’s part of Knytt Underground‘s magic, however. While journeying to reach a bell, Mi might meet some followers of the Internet faction, one of the religious groups based upon what these various sprites and pixies know about human culture. She might almost learn magic from a self-professed mage. Mi might even stumble upon an underground concert being put on thanks to human artifacts. There are secrets everywhere and even locations that aren’t hidden on the map and players will have to think smart to uncover everything about Knytt Underground.

Fortunately, exploring is typically a rather fun and simple affair. As I mentioned earlier, Mi can run, jump and occasionally finds colored orbs that allow her to perform a brief special action like a double jump or high jump. It’s most challenging when the robotic enemies are around sending out projectiles or attempting to chase Mi, but that just means working out the correct timing and retrying a level when necessary. It’s when Mi’s ball form is needed that things get difficult and trying. There are some areas that can only be passed by performing a series of precise jumps as a ball, then using the ball’s ability to swing from certain robots to cross a gap or hazard and it can be quite a pain. Momentum and trajectory have to be figured into these segments and it ends up feeling a bit uneven when a challenge like this comes up, blocking Mi’s path when the rest of Knytt Underground is so peaceful and without limits.

Not to mention the large map can work against Knytt Underground. I’m pretty sure earlier I mentioned it’s quite huge. If I didn’t, here it is. It’s 1,800 rooms and incredibly large. Getting from one area to another is troublesome. There is a means of fast traveling from one region of the map to another called the Disorder that acts as a warp zone. While it helps, I would have preferred something a bit quicker and more precise, not to mention more teleporting locations. It would have helped eliminate some of the backtracking, as there were a few times where I had gone past an area I wanted to eventually visit or revisit, but didn’t want to go back because of how far away it was or because it would mean passing a frustrating ball puzzle I didn’t want to replay.

Knytt Underground

Knytt Underground will pull in players

I’m a big fan of Nifflas’ work and I have to say that Nifflas and Green Hill have made Knytt Underground one of his best. It’s a unique experience that encourages players to do what they want, when they want without any kinds of limits or restrictions. There’s little to no pressure and the only thing holding people back is themselves. Players can go anywhere in Knytt Underground if they want it bad enough and try hard enough. Not to mention there’ll probably be a secret area, person to talk to, item or even unusual environment there as a reward for making the effort.

Knytt Underground is the kind of game where players will get out of it what they put into it. Go in with a few hours of free time and the desire to see as much as possible, and you’ll be rewarded with humorous scenes, expansive areas and 1,800 places to go.

Site [Knytt Underground]

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