Review: Knock Knock (PS4)

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Title: Knock Knock
Format: PlayStation Network Download (895 MB)
Release Date: September 10, 2015
Publisher: Ice-Pick Lodge
Developer: Ice-Pick Lodge
Original MSRP: $9.99
ESRB Rating: T
Knock Knock is also available on PC, iOS, and Android.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
Knock Knock is not your typical horror game. It is not a loud jump-scare factory nor is it a thrilling survival-horror title. Instead, it is more of a psychological experiment.

It has the trappings of a horror game with a creepy haunted house, mysterious monsters and a mentally unstable main character, but calling it just a horror game would not do it justice. This game goes for a more unsettling almost nerve wrecking vibe sure to make some uneasy.

The story is set in a dark forest inside a lonely house in which a mentally unstable man lives. He suffers from insomnia and finds himself awake every night trying to find his missing journal and to figure out what is knocking and making noises in his house. It is a story about a man just trying to get some damn sleep, but he’s haunted by something.

The game is simple to control. So much in fact that the developers do not spend much if any time explaining how the mechanics work and what the purpose of any of it means. You are left to learn about the game and its mechanics as you play.

The main goal on each level is to survive until dawn. There is a little clock in the top left corner of the screen that tells you how long you have to survive. You spend the creepy night in either an awake, sleep walking, or nightmare state, but which is which is never really made clear. Either way the goal is the same.

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You go room to room avoiding the occasional creepy as hell monsters/ghosts in order to find your journal pages and try to make sense of your house. Every room is bare with no furniture and you have to fix the lights in each so you can see the objects after closing your eyes to concentrate.

After you fixing the lights and exploring the room, a key to success is to turn off the light before moving on to the next room. This is important because the enemies and hazards cannot be seen in the light.

You must keep things dark if you want any chance of surviving because enemies will pop up out of nowhere and the light will only make it easier for them to do so.

There is no way to combat the ghouls other than to outrun them and hide behind certain objects, but every time you hide the clock stops so you cannot just hide and wait it out till dawn. When you are caught time will go backwards and dawn will be further away.

… Not knowing what to do …
On some nights you will be able to go outside of the house and explore the dark and creepy forest. This aspect of the game, while interesting, can be frustrating as you have no instructions on what to do. You can basically explore the forest for an extremely long time or for a short time by just returning to your house and moving to the next level.

If you do decide to explore the forest you might run into a ghostly girl and when you approach her you are greeted by a mysterious image and then you are automatically moved on to the next level.

An issue with this part of the game is that there appears to be no end and the girl’s appearance is random so it is possible to find her in seconds and other time several minutes. I don’t even know for sure if she is always going to be out there because I once spent ten plus minutes searching for her before I gave up and went home.

Not knowing what to do or what is happening is a common theme in this game, unintentional or not. I found myself towards the end just hoping a level would end so I could move on.

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Visuals:
The artistic design of Knock Knock is both beautiful and creepy. It looks like something that Tim Burton inspired or would totally dig. The environment design does an excellent job of creating an old haunted house with some great lighting work and artwork.

The house looks and feels like an old house out in the woods and with each lightning strike and bursting lightbulb the game looks amazing. The game uses a simple art style that makes the most out of it with solid character designs accompanied by good lighting and sound design.

Audio:
The sound design might be the shining star of this game whether you are playing with headphones or using a sound system. The sound is the biggest part of what makes this game haunt.

The main character speaks in an absolutely unsettling gibberish and while I can not explain why it creeped me out, it was the thing that stuck with me the most. There is other voice work that is mostly random voices that whisper unsettling things like telling you they want to play hide and seek or that they see you.

… a more unsettling and uneasy vibe …
Outside of the voices, the game is filled with the sounds of an old house and the attention grabbing knocks and pounding of doors. The sounds are sometimes hints at what creatures are now in the house, but sometimes they can be miscues to scare or get you nervous.

I mentioned earlier how the sound design works both with headphones and sound systems and that is because I found the sounds coming out of the DualShock 4’s speakers to be an excellent use of the controller’s feature. The controller is constantly spitting out ambient noises that helps build your immersion into the world.

When a sudden sound blasted from the controller I often was caught off guard as if it was coming from my own home. It’s a little thing, but it works amazingly well and you lose that element when wearing headphones.

I did not find the game to be scary, but I was left with a more unsettling and uneasy vibe which not a lot of games can pull off. The sound design is a huge reason for this.

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Online/Multiplayer:
This game is single-player only with no online component.

Conclusion:
Knock Knock is a different type of game. So much so that it starts with a note saying it is more of an “interactive meditation” than a game. I can see that being true since the level of the game’s mechanics is not at all deep.

You are mostly just moving your character around and from time to time hitting one or two buttons to fix a light or hide from a monster. That is not a knock against the game by any means because many games use a simplified control scheme, but this one does lack direction for the players that can be maddening because we are used to games being more straightforward.

There are multiple endings apparently and how to achieve them is not explained. I found this out because I apparently got the bad ending and I honestly do not know how I got to that point. But because the game is short, maybe a three to four hour experience, it is not hard to run through again.

This is a weird and interesting game that chooses to not explain all of its elements which is a respectable design choice, but one that some might find frustrating.

Score:
7.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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