UFG Goes Hands on With Knock-Knock!

Survival horror games are currently in fashion again. At least, that seems to be the case on the indie side of things. Games like Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs and Outlast are among some of the scariest games released in recent memory. But, only one game creeped me out before ever playing it…

Developed by Ice-Pick Lodge, Knock-Knock’s premise was unsettling to say the least. You play the role of a hermit (called the Lodger) that lives alone in a big house in the middle of a forest. He’s plagued by the Visitors, supernatural beings that love to play hide-and-seek late at night. In order to beat them at their game, the hermit has to simply remain alive and maintain his sanity until sunrise. Of course, just surviving isn’t going to fix his problem; there is a reason he’s being haunted. Worrying about why is tough though as with every passing hour, more of them begin appearing outside. Unfortunately, his house isn’t safe; though he locked everything down during the day, they still manage to get inside…and they know exactly where he is in the house. That’s just unsettling.

Knock-Knock opens with the Lodger waking up in the middle of the night. He explains how he needs to make sure that his house is secure before going back to bed. As he enters each room, he’ll talk to himself, explaining why he would do the things he was doing. For instance, he might say that leaving lights on in rooms he has already searched through  may make him nervous. This let me know that turning off the lights was part of the game; a rule if you will. In a roundabout way, he was giving me a tutorial. That’s not to say I was given straight forward directions either. There is very little hand-holding here, which adds to the game’s mystery. As the time went on though, I began to have an idea of how some of the game’s mechanics worked.

The game is played from a side view of the house with the inner rooms exposed (as if someone cut the house down the middle). Most of the time the game will focus on the Lodger’s current location, though you can zoom out using the mouse wheel to see the entire layout. As the night progresses, you’ll start to hear sounds coming from different rooms. A flash of lighting will illuminate a room, indicating that something is going to try and enter your house via that location. Your job is to reach that room and fix it (by repairing the light switch) before whatever it is makes its way inside. Because the house is big, you might not make it in time resulting in a visitor roaming the halls. Trying to hide out until sun up isn’t going to work. In order to move forward, you have to indirectly confront what goes bump in the night. Knock-Knock takes the notion of time moving slow when you’re afraid to a new level; hiding will literally cause time to move backwards !

Before I go further into the gameplay mechanics, I have to stress how tense it was walking around in the Lodger’s house. Creaky floor boards, the flash of lighting, loud banging, disturbing images; all of these things tried their best to make visiting each room as nerve-racking as possible. What really had me going though were the Visitors. They weren’t monsters like zombies or the weird creatures you’d find in a title like Silent Hill. They were disturbing because they had human features and pretended to be non-threatening. Hearing a little girls voice say “I see you” when there is no one else around (that you can see) can be quite unsettling. It goes a step further when you realize that the voice came from a tall, straightjacket wearing, headless man. Mind you, I was never scared to the point of jumping out of my chair or quitting the game outright. But the clever use of sound and design kept me on edge while playing.

Going back to the gameplay, keeping yourself alive after a visitor enters the house can be tricky. This is due to the fact that there are multiple visitors with different behaviors. The visitor I mentioned before (with the straightjacket) can’t hear you but he can see you. If you’re in a room with something to hide behind, you can hide and wait for them to walk past before moving forward. Another visitor can hear you no matter where you are in the house. This means that you can’t hide from them. One particular visitor likes to just appear in dark rooms. They won’t bother you unless you “see” them and will wait for you to turn on the lights. In order to get rid of the visitors, you have to go to the room that they entered your house through and repair the light. Once the sun pops up over the horizon all of the visitors will leave, only to return on a following night.

In between the ghastly nights of ghost hunting are nights where time stands still. Here is where you get to check each room to see if they are secure before…walking out into the forest? For some reason the Lodger will venture out into the wild before making his way back to the house. During the first part of the game there was nothing out there, just a bunch of trees. This took away from the tension that was built up the night before. That said, it could be because this is an early build of the game; meaning there could have been some elements missing that will be present in the full game. Or, the developers could have purposely made this area seem safe to add to the game’s overall mystery. I mean, even during the nights that featured the visitors, the rooms would be in different positions than the night before. Did I enter a new house? Are the rooms moving because the story calls for it or is this just a gameplay mechanic, trying to switch things up? Just like the Lodger, I started to question was what real and what wasn’t.

Things got progressively surreal as time went on. Yet, at the same time, things started to become clear. An example of this would be the use of light in each room. After fixing a light in a dark room, the Lodger will need to adjust his eyes to the light. Doing so will reveal what was hidden in the room. He might see something normal like a bed or something frightening, like footprints leading into the house. After a few nights, I started to notice pictures, new items, and more. The Lodger would then remember something from before, saying things like “oh yeah, someone used to live in this room”. After a while he started talking about his journal. Apparently the answer to what’s been happening to him is in that journal. The only problem is that it’s been misplaced or worse, stolen.

Again, because this was an early build of the game, I didn’t get to try out some of the finer mechanics. There were no items to collect and use around the house, repairing a breach into the house only required me to fix the light switch, and a lot of questions (like why the Lodger roamed the forest at night) remained unanswered. Still, I was able to get a glimpse at what the developers have in store. Basically, I’m more than a little eager to find out what’s going on. As it stands Knock-Knock is an interesting indie game worth our time…and by interesting I mean downright creepy!

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