Massively unique and unsettling
It's surprising just how massively unsettling Knock-Knock becomes. Despite the artsy, comic-like visuals and 2D-on-3D animations, I could feel a knot in the pit of my stomach throughout my entire playthrough. I didn't think that I'd be roped into the game's dark world as much as I was; yet I felt on edge within moments of booting the game up.
You can give the "gets horror right" box a great big tick, then – although other elements of the game aren't so well established, thanks to repetitive gameplay mechanics, dialogue that is touch-and-go, and some incredibly odd level inclusions. Knock-Knock is an extremely unique experience, and as with many unique games, it stumbles as much as it innovates.
You are an unnamed crazy guy living in the woods. Said crazy man has a touch of the old insomnia, and chooses to wander the halls of his house at night instead of going to sleep. The problem is that every time he wakes up he's in a completely different house. Oh, and there are horrible monsters roaming the halls, and creaking and knocking coming from every direction.
The aim of Knock-Knock is simple – survive each night until the sun comes up. As you tiptoe around each house, the clock in the corner of the screen will keep ticking away, and you can find special machines that will advance time more quickly. However, the further that time progresses, the more dangerous the monsters in the house will become. If one gives chase and touches you, the clock will rewind and you'll have to survive for even longer. If you touch too many monsters, you'll have to start all over again.
Knock-Knock is freaky as hell. It's the noises, mainly – creaks, moans, voices, knocking, and all sorts of other sounds emanate from the walls around you, and unfortunately it's often the case that you'll have to move towards the noises rather than away. Darkness consumes Knock-Knock's world too, and although you can screw in the lights in each room to bring a little brightness to your surroundings, this is often a stopgap for the horror, rather than a fix.
This is a game that sets out to frighten, and easily manages this goal. As you wander the halls, the game will let you know where trouble is brewing – it's then up to you whether you head towards the trouble to see if you can solve it, or stay the heck away. There are no obvious rules or methods for beating Knock-Knock other than "don't get caught," and you are able to hide behind specific objects in some rooms. However, when you do hide the time will begin to rewind slowly, meaning that you can't just sit behind an object and wait until morning.
It's a very unique twist on the horror genre, and one that works to a certain degree. I've certainly never played anything like this, and the lack of any real explanation as to how you should best tackle the game actually comes across as a plus point, adding to the horror and intrigue. It's certainly made me wary of ever staying in a dingy old house in the woods any time soon – especially a house that keeps changing shape every day.
But while Knock-Knock offers unparalleled video game horror and action the likes of which you'll have never seen before, other areas of this experimental game don't work so well. Most notably, the game becomes very repetitive rather quickly. Several levels in, I realized that I wasn't going to get much more than the action I had already witnessed – the houses change formation, but the actual gameplay itself remains unchanged and barely adds anything new as you progress, meaning that when you've seen one house, you've seen them all.
There's also a very strange outside section between each house that doesn't appear to make much sense. You wander through the woods looking for your house, and this involves simply walking in random directions until you find the next abode. It's not very fun, especially after multiple turns, and the game could have really done without it.
The game's story is hit-and-miss, too. The protagonist talks constantly, with lines of dialogue that bring the action briefly to a standstill. This would be fine, but much of the dialogue is clumsy and feels out of place.
Knock-Knock is worth experiencing for the horror elements alone: simply to witness how such a simple-looking game can distil such fear in the pit of your stomach. I'm always a connoisseur for something a little bit different in video games, and Knock-Knock is indeed something just that little bit "out there."
- Genuinely unsettling. Extremely unique experience. Working out the best way to survive is a real challenge.
- Gets very repetitive. The outside sections are pointless. The story is jarring at times.