Game Review: Knytt Underground (PS Vita)

The latest game in the Knytt series landed on the PlayStation Network on 21st December 2012 for the PS3 and the PS Vita and for those of you who have never played any of the titles before, it’s a platform puzzle game set primarily in a series of underground games featuring tiny but highly detailed graphics and animation.

Taking on the role of a young girl who has lost her memory, you start off in a cave and the first thing you need to do is talk to your sister. She tells you that the best thing to do is go and find the fairies who may be able to help… From there you have to explore the maze of underground caves, negotiating the platforms, solving puzzles and completing tasks that will be set for you by all the characters that you encounter along the way. Some puzzles and quests involve finding different objects that you need to unlock doorways blocking your path and others involve the use of different glowing orbs that you will encounter along the way. Walking into these will grant you a single-use ability to help in your quest including increased height / distance in your jumping, short range teleportation, the ability to shoot and more besides – and these are going to be vital if you’re going to make your way through the game’s vast 1,800+ screens.

You don’t have a set number of lives and there’s no time limit so you can take the game at your own pace – a good job really as this really is a huge game. The on-screen map that you pick up early on is vital so you’ll be able to find your way around easily enough and the relatively non-linear approach means that you can tackle the quests in whatever order you want, assuming that you want to stray from the main storyline as well. The platform side of the game is fairly forgiving so you don’t need pixel-perfect jumping which makes the game ideal whether you’re a hardened platform game addict or if your interest in platform games is more casual so even when you’re up against more than a few of the robotic adversaries who chase after you in some of the screens you won’t find it too taxing.

Visually the game takes a flick-screen approach rather than scrolling so you go into each new screen blind although this suits the pace of the game well and there’s never anything hazardous at the entry point for any of the screens that you can’t avoid easily enough so it’s never frustrating in any way. While the main look of the game appears bland at first, with all of the caves and platforms being little more than black outlines and shapes, and the characters all being relatively small in comparison with only a limited amount of animation, where the game really comes to life is the lavish backgrounds.

The screenshots here really don’t do them justice. They backdrops are bright, vibrant and really do bring the game to life. Trees and plants sway gently in the breeze, water flows and ripples as you walk through them, drops of water cascade down from gaps in the cave ceiling and form puddles on the ground, cloud formations swirl in the background and in some of the darker rooms, only a small area around you is lit up with a glowing light that emanates from your character. It’s all breathtakingly beautiful and backed up by an enchanting and soothing score that has you completely drawn into the game’s world.

Controls are incredibly intuitive – the left analogue stick or d-pad controls movement, with a single button for jumping in whatever direction you happen to be moving at the time. Items are used automatically as you need them, the circle button displays / hides your map and all the special powers you get during the game are all activated with the same button and triangle interacts with characters and objects, so you can master all the controls in a matter of minutes. Mastering the game, however, will take a lot longer! As for Vita-specific controls… while it’s not needed you can use the touch screen to interact with the world’s inhabitants and as for the rear touchpad – I’ll let you find that one out for yourself!

The only gripe I had (and this is a very petty one) is that you can’t save the game at any time that you want to. As you explore you will come across 60 Lightbeams scattered around the gameworld where the game will autosave and when you reload the game will start from the one you last visited. If you have Knytt Underground installed on your PS3 (and there’s no reason not to as it’s Cross Buy so you get the game for both systems no matter which version you purchase), then you can synchronise your save game data online so you can continue your progress from one console to the other.

This is probably one of the most relaxed and absorbing puzzle-based platform games I have ever played on any format. The game is incredibly polished and compulsive to the point that even when you’re faced with a puzzle that you just can’t figure out no matter how hard you try, you don’t end up giving up in frustration but you find yourself happy to wander around the levels looking for a solution or for other puzzles to solve instead. It’s easy to lose track of time playing because you can become wrapped up in this new world, the rich story and it’s characters, and its lavish visuals. As with most games of this type it won’t appeal to those who are more drawn to action-oriented games, everyone else should definitely give this a place in their collection. Definitely one of the real highlights for the PS Vita from the PlayStation Store.

Simon Plumbe

At A Glance

  • Title: Knytt Underground
  • Publisher: Ripstone
  • System: PS Vita
  • Format: PSN Download
  • Cross Buy: Yes
  • Cross Play: Yes (Save game data only)
  • Online Multiplayer: No
  • Memory Card Space Needed: 694Mb
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