Home > PC, Platformer > Knytt Stories [REVIEW]

Knytt Stories [REVIEW]

Knytt Stories: released August 30th, 2007
Developer: Nifflas
Platforms: Windows

These past few weeks I have been scouring the indie gaming scene on a journey to try and discover some new MetroidVania style games. Thus far I have found some pretty high quality titles, but nothing that quite nails that Metroid or Castlevania experience. Saira came pretty damn close due to it’s great ambiance and sense of exploration, but there were still certain key components that were missing to make it really feel like a MetroidVania game. This week’s game is brought to us by the very same soul who created Saira actually, Mr. Nicklas Nygren, otherwise known as Nifflas. As with the other titles I’ve tried thus far, Knytt Stories definitely possesses some key features that you’d expect to find when playing a MetroidVania game, but also like the other titles I’ve tried thus far, it’s also missing a few of those key components that you’d look for in a MetroidVania title as well. Still, I wouldn’t be writing a review for Knytt Stories if I wasn’t impressed by it!

If by chance you happened to play Saira, you can definitely tell that Knytt Stories was made by the same person, as is evident from the visual style. As with Saira, the visuals may look crude or simple when you first see them, but it really takes no time at all for them to grow on you, and as you continue to explore the world of Knytt Stories you’ll see a good variety of locations, with each region of the world possessing its own look and feel. Not to mention there are additional stories you can download (essentially small expansion packs) that give you entirely new stories to play through and experience, and each one of these brings with it a totally new environment as well. The art style just has a certain flair that makes everything really pop. Something I’ve learned from playing both Saira and Knytt Stories is that screenshots really don’t do Nifflas’ style justice. Yes, the game isn’t terribly detailed or complex, but it’s vibrant, and varied, and it feels alive. It just feels like I was exploring a real environment, and the overall style of Knytt Stories is charming to the max.

And when I say the game feels alive, I really do mean it. In addition to the various enemies you’ll be encountering throughout the world of Knytt Stories you’ll also happen across various kinds of local wildlife, just hopping, flying, or swimming around, minding their own business. The unique styles and colors portrayed by each of the regions looks great, but the world wouldn’t have felt nearly as alive if it weren’t for the various fireflies, birds, fishes, and other assorted animals wandering about the world. It makes it feel less like a world map and more like a place.

As was the case with Saira, Knytt Stories also traded in the usual combat scenarios that you’d find in the Metroid and Castlevania titles, but unlike Saira, Nifflas didn’t see fit to replace the combat with puzzles. Instead, Knytt Stories is about pure exploration and platforming, and in going this route Knytt Stories actually taps in to an aspect of the MetroidVania that Saira did not, which is the fact that you must explore and discover power-ups that are hidden throughout the world in order to progress. Sadly, this also means there’s less freedom in where you decide to explore. The world of Knytt Stories is designed so that once you discover a new item, you can progress to the next area, where you’ll find another new item and you’ll once again be able to move forward. What made this so fun in games like Shadow Complex and Super Metroid was that while you were exploring the various areas in the game, you’d come across doors you couldn’t reach or barriers you couldn’t breach, and you’d have to remember to return to those areas later on once you found an item that would help you tackle that issue. Now, while you have the illusion of this taking place in Knytt Stories, it’s not really the same since you only ever really have one course of action to take once you actually get that new item. Sure you can go in a variety of different directions and arrive at a variety of different dead-ends, which will give you the illusion of freedom, but ultimately you are on a set path the entire time.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though! It certainly doesn’t help your case if you’re trying to tout Knytt Stories as a MetroidVania, but as far as judging the game on it’s own merits, it’s still a fantastic platforming game. You may not really have the freedom inherent in MetroidVanias, but Knytt Stories provides an interesting, vibrant world to discover, and it still feels like you’re exploring a new land. That sense of exploration is one of the main reasons I seek out MetroidVania style games, and Knytt Stories does a great job of making me feel like I’m exploring of my own free will all throughout, even though I’m really not.

Earlier I mentioned that there are additional stories you can download and play for Knytt Stories. I would like to point out that while these stories are all unique and entertaining in their own way, they offer even less freedom than the main game. My main gripe with this is that it takes away from that whole “sense of exploration” thing I was praising it for having earlier, but even still, the additional stories available are all very interesting and completely worth checking out. Each new environment has it’s own look, it’s own story, and sometimes even it’s own style of navigation. These additional stories each tend to have a certain theme all their own, so while they do away with the sense of exploration that I enjoyed in the main game, they make up for it by adding some welcome variety to the experience. No story really feels alike, and they’re all pretty easily distinguishable from one another.

The soundtrack for Knytt Stories is absolutely perfect. It’s very smooth, very ambient, and it really does a great job of setting the mood. It’s hard to describe just what it is about this game’s soundtrack that makes it work so well, but it does. The beats and melodies are mostly pretty simple and they just seem to fit the mood of the game. I apologize for not having a better way to put it in to words, but I’m sure once you play it and hear it for yourself, you’ll understand.

Overall Knytt Stories is an impressive, mostly linear, platformer. It may not have filled that MetroidVania shaped void in my life like I’d hoped it would, but I’m still extremely pleased with the experience. Nifflas really knows how to set the mood in his games. The soundtrack along with the varied, eye-catching visuals and the inclusion of native wildlife in the game’s world made the experience very atmospheric. The additional stories will also be remembered as great experiences as well. Short as they were, they offered up totally new environments and scenarios that really set themselves apart from the other experiences to be had in Knytt Stories.

So if you’re in the market for an well designed and atmospheric platformer to get lost in for a while, Knytt Stories and it’s additional stories comes as highly recommended! Best of all, Knytt Stories and it’s expansions are all totally free! How can you possibly say no?

Download Knytt Stories and the extra stories for FREE right here: http://nifflas.ni2.se/

And while you’re there, don’t forget to check out Saira as well as all the other great free titles on his site!

[Sorry, there doesn’t seem to be a trailer available for Knytt Stories!]

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