Review: Knytt Underground (Wii U)

Nifflas strengthens the eShop with a massive exploration title.

By Anthony Vigna. Posted 01/03/2014 12:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Massive non-linear world; Unique and challenging platforming; Beautiful, surreal visuals; Stellar atmospheric soundtrack.
Poison Mushroom for...
Story is not coherent; Childish dialogue; Awful character art.

While Knytt Underground was not included on my top ten most anticipated indie games list, I was definitely keeping a close look at it as we approached its launch on Wii U. I’ve always been a big fan of Metroidvania-styled games, so Knytt Underground‘s focus on that kind of gameplay grabbed my attention immediately. The game looked very promising from the trailers I watched, as it showcased a heavy focus on exploration, precision platforming, and a gorgeous art style. Being that I never got a chance to play it on PC, PS3, or PS Vita, I couldn’t wait to finally get my hands on this game for Wii U.

Was it everything I was hoping for? Well, yes and no.

From a gameplay perspective, Knytt Underground was an incredible experience. The scope of the game’s world went beyond my imagination, as it’s stuffed with over 1,800 unique rooms for you to go through. Even after I completed the game after hours of adventuring, there was still a ton of blank spots on my map that I haven’t accessed yet. The Wii U GamePad displays this map at all times, so navigating through the game’s plethora of rooms is a complete breeze. I can’t imagine playing Knytt Underground on any other system because of the induction of this feature, since it becomes second nature to check the map constantly. I often found myself getting lost within the game’s world, not only because of the amount of rooms to explore, but because of the atmosphere it sets through its visuals and soundtrack. The art style is beautifully surreal and the music sets the tone for the world through its calming ambiance, which helped engross me in the game.

The majority of the game’s rooms are filled with platforming challenges that need to be completed in order to progress, and they are all done in really creative ways due to having two playable characters at your disposal. The first playable character is a female sprite called Mi. She can climb most walls and utilize magic that she finds to either fly through the air, become invisible, or attack foes. The other playable character is Bob the ball, which unsurprisingly has the ability to bounce off the floor to reach high areas. By utilizing the physics of the ball, players can also bounce off angled platforms as well to reach new areas. For the majority of Knytt Underground, you will be able to switch between both of these characters immediately with the press of a button. The combination of these two characters makes for some very interesting platforming mechanics that are a lot of fun to experiment with.

Unfortunately, the story is very hit or miss in Knytt Underground. The game tells the story of Mi, who is chosen to stop an impending apocalypse by ringing the six bells of fate to save the world. Even though this sounds very typical for a video game story, it throws an interesting twist at players by telling them it’s actually just a religious ritual that may be a myth. To drive this point home, two fairies follow you and argue about about the truth behind the bells and religion itself. Most games try to dodge the topic of religion as much as possible, so I have to give credit to Knytt Underground for giving a controversial theme this much spotlight.

The premise for the story is inherently brilliant and could have been something special, but it never reaches its full potential because it’s not told in a very coherent fashion. There are many walls set up by NPCs that do not let you access certain areas unless you give them the items that they demand. Often, the only way to get past these walls is to partake in numerous fetch quests, most of which have nothing to do with the main story at all. There are definitely some quests that exceed in furthering the theme of the game, but they are few and far between, which is a shame because the majority of the story is told through the quests that you accept. Another problem with the story is that the dialog is just completely childish in nature, since a lot of it is filled with unnecessary profanity. I don’t mind vulgar language, but the characters in the game curse just for the sake of cursing. This is incredibly jarring within the overall experience and doesn’t match up very well with the game’s peaceful art style and soundtrack. The dialog’s presentation is atrocious, too, as the character art and text boxes look like they were all created in MS Paint.

Knytt Underground‘s story is supposed to be reflective of the creator’s conflicting views on religion, so he decided that it would be a good idea to include himself within the game as a character to enhance the story. Again, this idea is not inherently bad, but the overall execution ruined the experience of the story even further. He makes an appearance at every pivotal moment of the story, barges in with odd attempts at humor, and brings the story to a halt multiple times, which ends up making major plot points anticlimactic in the grand scheme of things. The implementation of the creator within Knytt Underground exemplifies how disorganized the story is, and shows how the game could have benefited from a more focused plot.

All things considered, Knytt Underground is still a fantastic game. I thoroughly enjoyed spelunking through the game’s massive world, and even though the story can get lackluster, it does excel when it tackles its religious themes. Knytt Underground is an excellent addition to the eShop, and is perfect for anyone looking for a solid Metroidvania on Wii U.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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