Knytt Underground (Wii U) Review:

A long knytt.

The land of the chili.
The land of the chili.

Knytt Underground is a decent Metroidvania style game that focuses on platforming and exploration; there is no kind of combat and not many tricky puzzles, but it’s an interesting indie game from the creators of Night Sky.

Knytt Underground splits itself into three chapters, the first one acting little more than a basic tutorial about exploration, the second chapter is slightly longer, providing a tutorial to the ball mechanic, but it is in the third chapter where the game really becomes its own. The third chapter is the game – and the map is huge. Luckily on the Wii U version of the game you get the map on the Gamepad screen, along with all the items you have accrued, or you can just play the game on it.

The map system works as you’d imagine, with it made of blocks, with each block attaching to others either going up, down, left or right or any direction. The map itself has quite a lot going for it, with their being distinguishable areas to traverse, find secrets and perform quests. There is a fast way to traverse the large map, but it’s confusing and ultimately, I don’t think it is explained well enough to bother using.

The gameplay is smooth and intuitive however, climbing walls, jumping gaps and avoiding death lasers is fun, and transforming into a ball is great fun – if not slightly infuriating at times with how precise you need to be in order to pull off certain moves. There are puzzles based on movement and doors, and powers are used for these puzzles, each one is a different colour, for example: yellow lets you fly straight upwards, blue is the same but sideways and red lets you bounce in mid-air (there are a few more, but I’ll let you find those yourselves.

The aforementioned laser-beams of death.
The aforementioned laser-beams of death.

Every quest is a simple fetch quest; they show on the map where you need to go, so they aren’t fantastically interesting. The ultimate aim of the game is to ring the six Bells of Fate, but you need to find a certain amount of items to reach each one – or you could just pay the people not letting you through, but that’s no fun. It’s a simple enough plot that has some interesting details. You are supposedly a sprite living underground a war-ruined world, with conspiracy theories and a religious divide between those who believe in the internet and those who believe in God – I feel that the message of the game is that there is nothing however.

How the story is delivered is interesting, there are basically no cut-scenes and every piece of information is given somewhat sarcastically by inhabitants of the underground world, Knytt Undergound is meant to be funny, and providing this humour are your aides: two fairies – one of which is rather foul-mouthed who differ on practically everything. A nice touch is that when you speak to people you get to decide who talks, the nice or the angry fairy, sometimes the conversations can be funny.

Speaks for itself.
Speaks for itself.

Another nice touch to the game is backstory. Every piece of backstory is to be discovered by talking and completing quests – the more you explore, the more you will learn. It’s a nice mechanic, and one I think more games should use. Despite this, the story isn’t great and is let down by its lack of direction.

Knytt Underground is let down by bad art-direction, particularly in the character design department. The game-world actually looks quite pleasant, despite its simplistic designs, but the characters. Every character looks terrible and it really isn’t endearing to look at. I know it’s a cheap game, but it doesn’t need to look cheap and ugly.

Seriously, character design like that is just awful.
Seriously, character design like that is just awful.

Summary:

There’s a fair amount to recommend with Knytt Underground, but my advice is to pick it up in an eShop sale. Some will appreciate its hipster humour more than I did and some may really dig the aesthetic of the world along with the directionless story, but no one will enjoy the character designs; they almost ruin the experience.

Decent, but flawed exploration game.

70/100

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