Knock knock is an odd game. This makes for a difficult review. The first review that I had lined up was a glowing one as I was quite impressed with the effects the developers designed, as you’ll read below. The second one I was going to write was much more negative, almost scathing, pointing out things that I felt the developers should’ve included in explaining the game better, after I encountering a sudden and unexpected “Game Over” that was without cause. This is my third take on the game, which will be a bit more balanced and include elements of both.
Knock Knock is a side-scrolling game that at the outset isn’t all that clear on what your win conditions are at the outset, let alone the plot, similar to Myst but with a brief tutorial at the beginning for the controls. You play the role of a “lodger” who is the latest in at least three generations that have owned the lodge in which he resides. The lodger has had trouble sleeping as of late, as well as a recent bout of sleep walking, and these are compounded by the fact that there are strange things afoot in the lodge, rooms re-arranged, and doors being opened or closed on their own, and the like. Whether or not those things are simply a product of the sleep deprivation and sleep walking is part of the deliberate ambiguity within Knock Knock. The game is set at night, specifically in the hours leading up to daybreak. It’s your job to survive these nights and figure out what’s happening. The latter is primarily accomplished through the lodger speaking directly to the player about what he sees going on and thinks may be happening.
The look and feel of the game is very well done. It has a cartoonish feel to it’s appearance, but in no way does that detract from the general feel of creepiness that the game is about. The developers include a splash screen that recommends that you play with headphones on, in the dark, and alone. I spent the first few hours playing this game doing just that, and I can attest that compliance with this did add to the general unease and angst that the game attempts to cultivate; your mileage may vary with this. Due to how dark the setting is, I did find it considerably easier to play in a darkened room. So much so that attempting to play in direct daylight of any sort was pointless on my Nexus 7.
The lodge that you play through is arranged with the rooms all adjacent, above, or below one another. Since the setting in the lodge is during the night, and you move from room to room within it to lighten them up, you will see things moving in the darkness of rooms just entered, or things that disappear when the light is turned on. There isn’t much for a soundtrack in this game either, as Knock Knock instead focuses audio effects, like disembodies voices that taunt your character, or footsteps and opening doors that creak, pounding on doors, and other sounds that impact the mood of the game. And as I mentioned before, the effect of these sounds is amplified when using headphones.
The gameplay itself is simple, yet can become more confusing as the game progresses. For starters, instead of “dying” you simply restart that level. You also have only one save file running at any given time, so if you quit a level in progress and reload the game later, you restart that level from the beginning. And because you only have the one save file, there’s no replaying past levels. You play on, or start from scratch. Within Knock Knock, you will use a handful of basic taps and gestures to move the lodger about, tapping on the edges of the screen to move left and right or to unlock doors, tap directly on highlighted objects to interact with them, or swipe vertically to fix light bulbs, navigate ladders, or toggle light switches.
Yet while Knock Knock explains these things to you, you are left to figure other things out on your own with little help, and at times what felt like none at all. Some may enjoy this challenge, others may not; I found it made things more difficult than need be in later stages. After searching around the net for explanations, I began to see how things made sense from a gameplay perspective, but I still feel that more explanations for mechanics introduced later should have been included so players don’t need to go outside the game to understand it.
In the end, this game costing $3.99 is as difficult to recommend (one way or the other) as it is to review. I found that there’s much I enjoyed, and just as much that frustrated me. If you enjoy real challenges, this one is definitely for you. If you like games with a creepy or horror theme, I think you’ll enjoy it as well, but here are some helpful links should you end up confused about what went wrong.