By: Mike Chen
After being a hit on Steam, iOS and Android, indie horror game Knock Knock has arrived on PS4. With a distinct art style and unique concept, it’s easy to get drawn into the game’s mouth of madness. Some unfortunate game mechanics will probably make you want to escape, however, and not in the way the designers intended.
Knock Knock’s graphics will instantly bring up a combination of indie hit Don’t Starve and Tim Burton’s claymation projects, such as The Nightmare Before Christmas. The lighting and artwork create an eerie-yet-whimsical mood, and sound effects offer both creeping tension and the occasional jump scare. It’s a no-frills experience for sure, but there’s enough style and clean presentation to draw you in.
Note that I did get some animation stutters. This was on a version of the game downloaded shortly after public release on PS4; these issues may be fixed via patch down the road.
As Knock Knock is essentially a puzzle game, you won’t get overly complicated controls here. Movement is straightforward via the analog stick, with use of the face buttons to interact with objects or turn on light bulbs. A useful feature is Triangle or the right analog, which zooms the view out to get a comprehensive look at the house.
Like The Vanishing Of Ethan Carter — another recent indie horror game — Knock Knock doesn’t hold your hand much, only offering vague hints as to what to do. Essentially, you’re trapped in one boy’s nightmares, trying to survive through the night until the sun comes up.
A running clock appears in the corner and helps you track how much time is remaining until you’ve passed the segment. The game is comprised of about a dozen of these sections, each taking anywhere from a few minutes to an hour depending on how quickly you find out the trick to solving them.
That trick can be, well, tricky. Each level is unique. You’ll get clues — audio, visual, gameplay — as to the best survival technique. These can be anything from background items appearing and disappearing to overheard whispers as you trigger actions or explore. It takes trial and error to piece things together.
The problem is that when you fail a level — generally by an evil spirit touching you — the night starts over. As these levels have a bit of procedural generation powering them, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, and that style of gameplay can be equally punishing and exhilarating.
Unfortunately, the lack of wiggle room can be maddening. One-touch kills wind up constricting leeway for experimentation, especially when you have to work through trial and error just to get to a certain point. Repeating a level a few times is fine, but hitting double digits in deaths at roughly the same area can lead to rage quitting.
A little more forgiveness in progression (i.e. if hits only moved things backward instead of resetting or if a reset required 2-3 hits) would have made for a much more enjoyable experience.
Stylish and captivating, Knock Knock’s atmospheric creepiness will endear itself to a lot of people right away. However, some punishing mechanics suck the joy out of the experience. For those that love to jump in without any direction or help, Knock Knock is a relatively short (4-5 hours) experience with replayability. You just have to get the hang of it.