My Steam Review of Knytt Underground has just been published. This is one of my longest, if not the longest, Steam review I’ve done yet. I’m really happy I could get this out. (Edit: it has since been surpassed. Now updated with relevant links).
A Paladin’s Steam Review: Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death. Low Budget Spectacle Fun.
- Genre: 3rd Person Action Spectacle Fighter.
- Developed & Published by: Zootfly & 505 Games.
- Platform: Windows and Xbox 360.
- Business Model: Base Game.
- Copy Purchased by Myself
Overall Gameplay Thoughts
I’m not entirely sure what you can expect from such an obvious low budget videogame. But being fun isn’t one of those things normally. This game is surprisingly solid both mechanically and its story, even if it takes neither of those things seriously. The effort put in shows. Sure, the game’s plot is as 2-dimensional as a standard platformer and the character’s don’t have much of a backstory but it’s pretty darn fun. Especially when you have a SHMUP sequence thrown at you and doesn’t feel out of place. The game switches between action spectacle and puzzle/platforming to keep things moving.
You follow the adventures of Firefighter Marlow Briggs who gets killed by an industrialist voiced by the noodles guy from Kung Fu Panda. (It sounds like him and I’m pretty certain it is, but the credits don’t say and IMDB doesn’t credit him with the part). The guy who is voice acting him is clearly having tons of fun with the role. There is so much ham and cheese to his villany, you can’t help but giggle. After being resurrected by a Mayan Mask of Death, Briggs must fight through hordes of enemies and gods in exotic Mayan locations to save his loved one from the evil industrialist before he achieves his ultimate goal of becoming a Mayan God. The story is rife with mentions of Mayan culture and their gods.
You get the use of a weird scythe-like weapon which has three other versions of itself as well as four elemental powers you can use to devastate numerous enemies. The different variations allow you to attack in different ways and with different spells. One is a mace-like weapon that’s slower but hits harder. Another is a scythe for faster if weaker attacks and so on. The hack and slash elements are well done and flashy, if standard. You recover health and mana via other death masks items found in the level as well as off fallen enemies. The only hidden items in this game are XP masks and they aren’t too hard to find.
PC Settings and Audio/Video
Marlow Briggs has a fairly lacking options menu. Game will only display in 16:9 resolutions (with 50, 59, 60Hz options for some resolutions). It’s letterboxed or cropped depending on the differing aspect ratios. AA, V-Sync, Field of View and anisotropic filtering can’t be changed. The AA used seems to be FXAA according to PCGamingWiki. Keys can be rebound if needed though I suggest running this game with a controller. You should be fine without one but spectacle fighters tend to play better with a controller. Audio sliders include: effects, music, dialog and master volume. Can’t go wrong with those choices.
Graphics are a modern day realistic style. It’s ok but a bit low-fidelity. Soundtrack is an over the top orchestral collection of tracks with big bombastic choirs singing. There is one thing I should note. Many of the “cutscenes” are a collection of still images of Briggs in a, for lack of a better term, badass pose. Whether its slicing enemies apart or leaping over a boulder, it doesn’t matter. Sort of like a very fancy 3D slideshow. I still can’t tell if the devs were saving money, being artsy or confident in their graphics team. It’s a little weird when you’re playing the game but I guess it works. Oh one final note, there are challenge modes but I didn’t really bother with them.
Summed up, Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death is an average game that somehow kept me entertained the entire time. I think the combination of over the top action, voice acting and a care-free attitude in the developers is why. The pace is just about right too. This isn’t game-of-the-year material, it’s not the best of the genre and its not a unforgettable experience but Marlow isn’t trying to waste your time either. Each level doesn’t outstay its welcome and the combat remains challenging without getting too aggravating. Characters are fairly well fleshed out too and you get some reason to care about them. So, consider picking it up if you need a new spectacle fighter.
A Paladin’s Steam Review: Knytt Underground. It’s Too Much of A Good Thing
- Genre: Indie 2D Platformer Exploration Game.
- Developed & Published by: Nifflas’ Games & Ripstone
- Platform: Windows, Mac, Linux, PS3 and Vita. .
- Business Model: Base Game.
- Copy Purchased by Myself
Overall Game & Story Thoughts
Knytt Underground is a 2D platformer/exploration/physics puzzler developed by Nifflas’ Group. It’s the third game in the series though you won’t likely have heard of the previous two games as they never made it to Steam. You follow the adventures of Mi, a mute sprite who must ring six special bells in this underground world in order to save it. She is joined by a sentient, yet also mute, bouncing ball and two fairies. So, with this quirky cast of characters, you are tasked to save the world….and fetch every single item in this vast world of sprites.
You begin with a couple of short tutorial chapters to get you familiar with the game mechanics that Knytt has. After that, the game throws everything and the kitchen sink at you in chapter three. The game world is huge and there is a lot to see. Much of the game is focused around exploring every nook and cranny while listening to a pretty darn good soundtrack. There’s also a story involving your two companion fairies that gets fleshed out during your adventures though I found the writing to be wonky. Basically, there’s a science VS religion theme going throughout the story and I’m not convinced that it pulls it off that well. The two fairies themselves are also a bit two dimensional and predictable to how they’ll treat each situation. It’s not well written.
While the game has over 1,800 rooms to explore, a lot of them are empty corridors and dead-ends. A very large majority of the quests in this game are fetch quests and the rest are finding somebody. (So, just ½ of the fetch quest). Most items are obtained after solving physics-based puzzles that get continually harder as the game progresses. Getting around the world is a chore as the fast-travel system is very gimmicky and tricky to get to the area that you really want to be. The whole shadow world that has you rushing in a netherworld to get to the exit but if you don’t get there in time, you’ll be thrown into a random room that doesn’t help you progress forward. It can get extremely tiresome to deal with.
The Game’s Content
I will say that I enjoyed the exploration…for a while. I enjoyed the puzzles…for a while. I enjoyed the fetch quests…for a while. It’s really a testament to the game that I tolerated 14 hours of fetch quests. But towards the end of the game, I just wanted it to end. The game’s content is bloated, repetitive and lacking in interesting new mechanics to explore after a while. While being able to transform into a ball is a little different on the platforming genre, I think its the worst part of the game as some areas and puzzles require extremely precise jumping in order to pass.
The game ended for me when I got to the 5th major locked door in the game. Each bell that has to be rung is locked by a jerkface sprite that demands you hand over items for varying reasons ranging from “I’m just like this because reasons” to [i]“You need to PROVE yourself”[/i]. (This goes back to my complaint that the story isn’t well written). When I was told, at the 5th door, that I still needed more items in order to pass, (and hence complete the game) I pretty much said this: [b]NOPE, NOPE, NOPE, NOPE. I’M DONE, I’M FINISHED. I’VE HAD ENOUGH OF THIS[/b]. And promptly quit the game. I do understand that there are ways to get around the bell without paying but it requires trial and error to get around him through the other world system. I can only tolerate so much of the same repetitive activity. The enemy variety is lacking and many of the >physics< puzzles consist of a lot of trial and error. An absurd amount of trial and error dependent on nailing skillshots at the right time in the midst of bouncing around the room. It can get very quickly frustrating after dealing with it for 10+ hours. There’s nothing there to really vary it up.
Knytt has rebindable keys and audio sliders. Graphics settings are extremely basic, allowing for changing full screen and some enabling/disabling minor effects. That’s all. It’s a stunningly basic settings menu. While 2D games don’t necessarily need a lot of settings, not even having the basic such as V-Sync or Resolution is not ok. One last note: the character running around in the chapter-select screen is cute but please don’t add it to future games. Adding time to entering the game (especially when its the longest path of all the three chapters) gets very old. Using a regular menu UI is much more preferable to getting us into the actual game. No need to make a repetitive game out of entering the actual game.
I can’t recommend Knytt Underground. The game is unique with a great soundtrack and solid enough presentation for sure but the repetitive gameplay and frustrating trial-and-error puzzles drove me insane. It’s a large ocean of a world with the depth of a puddle. Adding different kinds of quests and less item questing would have made the experience more enjoyable in my mind. The game is far too long considering its story and mechanical depth. You’ll realistically see most of the game’s mechanics in the first two tutorial levels before moving onto the main world. Said world will only slightly change things up, but depend far too much on what it first designed to create challenges. The story itself takes too long (mostly due to the game’s pacing issues) and has a central, if uninteresting, conflict between religion and science that has been done better elsewhere. This is, bemusingly, too much content for this game’s concept and execution.
As always, thanks for reading and I’ll talk to you soon!