Indiewatch: Knock Knock - A Unique Psychological Horror
Welcome to Indiewatch, a series where every Friday, we take a look at a good, yet unknown, unappreciated, and overlooked indie title. In order for a game to be covered on Indiewatch, it must fit into the following criteria:
- It must be an indie game
- It was not covered (or it was given minimal coverage) by mainstream video game websites and YouTubers
- It must be good! Nothing below 7 out of 10 will be covered.
This week, we are taking a look at the psychological horror title, Knock Knock, developed and published by Russian developer Ice-Pick Lodge. It released on October 4, 2013, on PC, Mac, Linux, and Steam OS. It was later ported to the PS4 and PS Vita.
Knock Knock, much like all of Ice-Pick Lodge's games, is a unique experience that you will never get with any other game in the indie horror subgenre. While it is a brilliant game with an unnerving atmosphere and interesting gameplay, it is nevertheless a title that is definitely not for everyone.
It's a little crazy and a little unhinged. But that's what makes it so great.
Knock Knock's World of Insanity is Well, Insane
In Knock Knock, you take on the role of The Lodger, a man who refers to himself as a worldologist -- or someone who studies the world. For generations, his family has resided in this house, with each Lodger adding new rooms it. Spending a lifetime in the massive house has taken its toll on him.
Suffering from insomnia, The Lodger sits on the brink of insanity. No longer is he able to tell the difference between what is real and what is his imagination. His memory is a blur as he attempts to remember his studies and the layout of the house.
At night, strange creatures known simply as The Visitors begin to appear in unlit rooms of the house, seeking The Lodger out. Can he survive throughout the nights and unravel the mystery behind his insomnia, The Visitors, and what has happened to the dying woods surrounding the house? Or will it be too much for him to handle? Will he lose what is left of his sanity? Only time will tell...
Because Knock Knock's narrative and plot are both vague and nebulous, many people have their own theories about the game. But regardless of that, Knock Knock is a game best experienced first-hand. If you are looking for a plot that is straightforward, Knock Knock isn't going to deliver it. Instead, if you are looking for a plot where you need to think and make your own interpretation of what is going on, then it may just be what you are looking for.
Knock Knock is Primarily A Game of Terrifying Hide and Seek
In Knock Knock, you must make your way through each of the nights surviving until sunrise. During the night, you will have to venture through the house, turning on lights in each of the rooms and keeping them on. Once a room is lit, it will take awhile for The Lodger's vision to adjust. You need to stand still while his vision adjusts to reveal what is within the room.
Most of the time it will only reveal the furnishing and decor of the room and nothing more. But sometimes it will provide a place to hide when The Visitors begin to appear. So check each room carefully.
As you progress through the rooms, you will at times find clocks. These clocks, when activated, will fast forward time, bringing you closer to sunrise -- and further away from the clutches of The Visitors. But as the hour's pass, holes will begin to appear on the walls of the house, acting as portals for the ghastly Vistors. The camera will zoom into the room the portal in which the portal is opening and you'll have a short amount of time to close it by turning on the light in that room.
If you don't close it in time, The Visitors will begin to roam the house attempting to find you, which quickly turns into a game of terrifying hide and seek. If they catch you, time rewinds, making the night ever longer. If they find you too many times, it will make the entire night start over from the beginning. To make matters worse, hiding also rewinds times, forcing you to only use it when needed.
The problem is, in order to get the true ending to the game, you must be brave and keep exploring as many of the rooms as you can each night. Only then will you find what is referred to as the Key to the puzzle. Sitting back in a comfort zone and waiting for sunrise will result in you getting the bad ending.
During the day you can explore the house without worrying about The Visitors. And this is why you must survive the night: to find and activate a clock and then exit the house. This leads to you to the woods surrounding the house, where you are looking for the key that will make this nightmare end.
The way Knock Knock plays does not make for riveting gameplay, but instead it gives the player a unique experience. But that is what Knock Knock is about: It isn't so much a video game as it is an experience, an experience unlike anything else. And that is more than enough to win me over.
Knock Knock Doesn't Hold Your Hand
It is worth mentioning that Knock Knock is a game that doesn't hold your hand. It is due to this that the game was relatively poorly received by both players and critics alike. There is no tutorial and no clear explanation as to how the game works.
Instead, The Lodger turns to the camera speaking to the player, explaining how things work. The problem is, you are getting advice from a man who is anything but mentally stable. His instructions are far from clear and often they are like riddles.
It forces you to sit back and think about what he is saying and attempt to figure it out and work his instructions into the gameplay to survive. Remember, however, that not all of his advice is sound.
It is a game that doesn't have rules. Instead, you have to adjust to the scenario surrounding you. Sometimes a voice will tell you to stay where you are and you would be right doing so. Other times, it will betray you and have a Visitor appear.
You are playing with and against The Lodger's mind at all times throughout the game. While this may not sit well with many people, it is a mechanic that works perfectly for The Lodger's character.
It is without a doubt the perfect depiction of a character going insane. After all, an insane individual would never give advice in a manner that would be easy to follow. They would, of course, speak in such riddles. It may not be the best choice from a gameplay perspective but it is a logical one that makes a realistic scenario of a madman. And if I am, to be honest, I love it.
A Stroke of Genius
Knock Knock is without a doubt an absolute stroke of genius. It is a game that plays tricks with you and makes you paranoid.
It is a game where the world messes with your head just as much as it does the protagonist's -- and is it bloody brilliant. Knock Knock is a game that you play for an experience, not to play a video game.
It is something that will only appeal to those who are open-minded, can look from multiple perspectives and are looking for something different and bizarre. If you are looking for the standard tropes of horror, you are not going find it and most likely the game won't appeal to you.
It is a game that you will truly only ever appreciate if you understand what it is that Ice-Pick Lodge was attempting to do when making it. As far as I am concerned what they were attempting, they succeeded in doing in every possible way.