I love scary games. Those games that have you on the edge of your seat, wondering if you’re safe from harm or seconds away from another underwear-ruining surprise that has you fumbling for the controller in a blind panic. Dead Space 2 was good at this. A balloon even made me jump. Knock Knock takes a slightly different approach though, moving away from having stuff to run away from and shoot in the face to a more suggestive horror. It works. For a bit.
Taking control of a guy who talks a weird gibberish language and can’t sleep soundly unless he knows the house is safe, your main job is to make it through the night until the sun comes up, at which point you can step outside the house and go for a wander. Initially this is nice and simple – just stroll round your house in your pyjamas, fix light bulbs in each room, stumble on a special clock which fast forwards time and hey presto, job done.
Later though, things start taking a strange turn. Voices echo through the house, strange creatures appear that you need to hide from, and creepy huge eyes seems to appear through walls and try to stare you into freaking out. Bangs and thumps ring out from somewhere nearby, as lightning ripples around the house. It all sounds very atmospheric, and at first it’s quite disconcerting, but it’s not long before you find the two big weaknesses of Knock Knock: the fact that it’s quite repetitive, and the fact you’ve got absolutely no idea what’s going on.
The voices, for example, seem totally unable to make up their mind whether or not to be helpful. It’s quite clear that this guy is going totally crazy, so a little help is handy when there are odd creatures on his house. So being told what to do, or where to go, or where to stay away from is quite reassuring. Only sometimes the advice leads you straight into trouble, negating the moments when it feels like you’ve been helped out. That’s nothing to criticise in itself – if the guy is going a bit loopy then these voices will be all over the place – but added to the other “what the hell” moments it all starts to add up. The creatures, for example, can’t be attacked. You have to run away or hide. Again, fair enough, but there’s often no warning when one of these things will appear, so when one appears literally inches from you and catches you before you even realise they’re standing there you feel a bit cheated. It all feels too random, and wandering around switching lights on and off doesn’t hold much concentration (although every now and then a bulb will randomly blow up for good measure, as if Carrie herself just showed up in a bad mood).
Some monsters will find you even if you’re hiding, which means you have to run away and find somewhere safe to hide or coax them into a Benny Hill style chase loop around the house (only without the pace, music or comedy value). The trouble here is the houses themselves, which often provide numerous dead ends for you to stumble into ready to get caught by the nasties, so to speak. After the initial “what the hell is that” moment they start to lose their scariness too, and even though the big creepy eye still bothered me a bit throughout the game, everything else soon lost its horror mojo. It doesn’t hold a candle to the Amnesia games, if you’ll pardon the pun.
What you can say about Knock Knock though is that the developer clearly recognised the potential shortcomings and made it appear like an intentional element of the game. The introduction shows a note stating that the game (or “meditation” as it’s referred to) was developed following the discovery of some rough and incomplete notes outlining how the game should be made. Any gaps in the story are therefore a result of such confusing development instruction, but you’d have to imagine a gap the size of a tractor before understanding just how baffling this game gets.
Knock Knock isn’t a terrible game necessarily, it’s just one that doesn’t feel like it’s hit the right notes. It certainly looks the part, and the sense of intrigue is initially addictive in the same way the initial thunder rolls and weird voices are a bit creepy, but it all starts to fall apart before long and leaves you with something you can happily take or leave. Some folk might enjoy it, and I applaud the Kickstarter community for allowing a promising title to see the light of day, but sadly it hasn’t really delivered on its potential.
Reviewed on PC