From Ice-Pick Lodge comes Knock-Knock, a horror game that is more horror than game. It’s a little difficult to give a synopsis of this game, because even after playing it for quite some time, I still don’t fully understand it. I think that in some way, that’s kind of the point, but it may have gone too far.
You play as a Lodger, living in a large house in which your father and his father before him lived. Your character teeters on the edge of sanity, not knowing whether what he is seeing and hearing is real or not. The idea is to make it through the night to dawn. Over and over and over again. This is done by checking each room in the house, and finding clocks that move the night along. Occasionally, you’ll have to avoid some ghosts/apparitions/monsters – which are legitimately creepy; the way they move and randomly appear made my skin crawl more than once – or begin the level again. Other smaller tasks are thrown in, but for the most part you are just walking through the house, which is rearranged slightly for each new level.
Ghastly Sights and Sounds
Almost every aspect of the game adds to the level of creepiness, and the graphics and audio are not exceptions. All in all, KK is pretty dark, but it works. Most of the house is dark, as is the forest outside, which is perpetually shrouded in fog, with scary-looking trees everywhere. The enemies are cleverly designed, and give you an unnerving feeling. One thing that was notably strong visually was the way the 3D was done. The 3D is mostly achieved by layering 2D objects on top of one another. Though this may seem like a cheap way to do it, it’s actually well done. However, there is some true 3D which you see as you walk from room to room in the house. The perspective is like looking into a Barbie Dream House (not that I know what that is…) with the front wall removed, and you see the walls that separate the rooms shift perspective as you move through them.
While there wasn’t a lot of music, it was of high quality. Eerie piano music and an almost child-like combination of xylophone and bells would make my blood run cold. While walking through the house, creaking, pounding on doors and windows, thunder and random voices and screams were rampant. Outside, the sounds of crickets, owls, and the ever-present crunching of leaves under Lodger’s feet gave me the feeling like I needed to watch my back. And one part that was weird but effective was when Lodger would speak. The text balloons were there so you could understand him, but he spoke in complete gibberish. Sounds funny, but came across as unsettling.
Being Scared Just Isn’t Enough
Now all of this being said, I wasn’t a huge fan of the game. It had a very random, disconnected, repetitive feel to it, and I struggled to see the point. Each level amounted to walking through a slightly rearranged house, fixing and turning on lights, opening doors and activating clocks by tapping on them once you found them. Some levels had enemies which needed to be avoided, and some didn’t. And through it all were nonsensical statements from Lodger, something like “someone just walked over my grave” or “I am a world-ologist. That is my profession. I inherited it.”
I was driven to continue by – aside from the obvious need to review the game – a sort of morbid curiosity about whether it would begin to make more sense and/or become more entertaining, neither of which really happened. At one point, I found myself walking through the woods aimlessly for more than five minutes, which is when I really began to question the point of it all. If you can manage to stick with KK the whole way through, I can’t imagine there being much replay value beyond that.
I felt that if I understood better what was going on, Knock-Knock might have been more enjoyable. I think one of the failings of this game is that it tries a little too hard to be vague and convoluted in the interest of being horrifying, and that comes across as disorganized and lacking direction to the person playing. It looks and sounds good, but lacks any sort of complexity to give it a really solid fun-factor.