is one of my favorite platformers of all time. The peaceful atmosphere, the simple, but tight controls, and the sense of exploration all combined into a wonderful, unique experience.
Knytt Underground builds on that, but unfortunately loses just about everything I liked about Knytt Stories. The largest difference between the two games is, well, the size. Knytt Underground is absolutely massive. The map is huge, and there are even pretty large areas outside the map
, making it even bigger. There's a lot of content to explore here, and exploration is really the main component of the game. The main problem then, is that the exploration simply doesn't feel rewarding. There are several reasons for this.
The first reason is simple: in a game of thousands of rooms, discovering a new one just doesn't feel very special.
This is further amplified by the fact that the rooms really aren't special. Whereas in Knytt Stories the different areas had different tilesets and moods, this isn't the case in Knytt Underground. Every area of the game looks just about the same. It's black (cause, you know, it's underground). In Knytt Stories, encountering a new area that had its own distinct visual style felt rewarding. In the underground, that's gone.
It's true that games like Limbo
manage to use a greyscale artstyle to great effect. However, there are two significant differences. First, Limbo isn't 20 hours long. Second, Limbo isn't tile-based. So whereas all objects in the game may be black, they still differ in shape. Not so much in Knytt Underground. The foreground looks the same all over. Plus, Limbo had tons of great animation which this game doesn't.
What makes the areas feel at least slightly different are the backgrounds, which do vary. Unfortunately, that just isn't enough to stave off the feeling of repetition.
But of course, Knytt Stories doesn't just reward you with different tilesets. It also gives you items that change up your movement and allow you to progress further. Using this, the world is initially blocked off, which means the player doesn't have to feel overwhelmed with possibilities of where to go, and when they do get an item that allows them to progress, it feels rewarding.
Knytt Underground also has items, but none of them affect movement. They are all fetch quest items. This means that after two short tutorial chapters, the world is completely open to explore. It is easy to feel overwhelmed and directionless.
The second major difference between the two games is the focus on story in Underground. The game now has dialogue! Although the main character, Mi, is mute, she has two fairies, Dora nad Cilia, that do her talking for her. Whereas Dora is religious and believes in the kindness of... mankind? sprocketkind?, Cilia is a far more cynical atheist. This difference in attitude and worldview makes up much of their conversation.
This is probably the best part of the game and I quite like how most quests and undertaken not for the promise of any reward (there usually isn't one) but for the sake of helping. There are also a few nice moments sprinkled throughout the game where you get to learn more about the characters. However, in a game that took me 20 hours to finish, the interactions I actually found enjoyable made up less than half an hour. The vast majority of the game is spent traversing the huge map and that's a part I simply didn't enjoy. For one because the exploration didn't feel rewarding, but also because I'm not a fan of the movement mechanics themselves.
The movement is a combination of Knytt Stories and Within a Deep Forest
, and whereas I like the movement mechanics of Knytt Stories, I can't say the same for Within a Deep Forest, or practically any other physics-based game. They easily get frustrating.