key review info
- Game: Knock-Knock
- Platform: PC
- Gamepad support: No
- Reviewed on:
- Show system requirements
Among a number of horror-themed video games that have appeared over the past weeks, in the run-up to Halloween, Knock-Knock might be the most unique, even if it is not the most scary, the most complex or the most coherent.
Ice Pick Lodge is a Russian developer with a very colorful history, which includes gems like The Void and Pathologic, and its most recent release is somewhat less ambitious when it comes to scope, but still manages to cross any genre boundaries created by Western developers.
Knock-Knock stars a weird little fella with red hair, weird clothes and a house that’s as much a labyrinth as a shelter, who is clearly traumatized by some previous event.
Awoken from his sleep, he needs to patrol the various rooms in order to turn on all the lights and find a number of clocks that will allow him to reach the safety of the morning sun faster and with less effort.
While doing this, our protagonist mutters to himself in a weird little language and offers very limited details about how the forest around him is threatening and he needs to make sure that he is not invaded.
From time to time, a number of creepy creatures, which might or might not be demons or incarnations of his memories, make their way into the house, apparently attracted by light, and the player needs to find places to hide.
This literally makes time flow backwards in Knock-Knock and even bigger chunks of it can be lost if the creatures actually find the protagonist, a process that seems to be a little random.
Once all the required time flows or is gathered, a level is complete and gamers get to move on to the next, which usually involves a bigger house to explore, some new monsters to hide from and, potentially, a stroll through the outside woods.
Ice Pick Lodge delivers subtle hints about the story of the main character and the world as the game progresses, suggesting that everything that’s happening is a mix of dream and hallucination induced by an outside force.
The feeling is enhanced by the disclaimer that stays briefly on screen at the start of Knock-Knock, but unfortunately I could not put together the entire story and I suspect the developers themselves want to actually keep the mystery.
The small hints at a bigger horror threat and the idea that the game is itself an unreliable narrator are engaging at first, but the team then fails to build on them and there’s no sense of fulfillment as the story progresses.
The graphics of Knock-Knock are unique and interesting, mixing a clear geometric design for the house with the disheveled look of the main character and a pretty gruesome look for the various invaders.
It’s nice to stop at times, light up a room and just stare at all the little details that Ice Pick Lodge has integrated in each space, which hint at stories untold by the game.
Unfortunately, the sound design is a big disappointment, mostly because of the sloppy and emotionally devoid vocal work linked to the protagonist.
I can understand why he speaks in gibberish, but the lack of structure of the invented language becomes very annoying quickly and the game suffers every time the red haired kid opens his mouth.
Turning off his voice is actually an improvement and adds a new aura of mystery to the entire experience.
Knock-Knock is an interesting experiment in storytelling and mechanics, a title that blends several genres and tries to create a kind of gentle horror that relies more on suggestion than on any sort of sudden scares.
Unfortunately, the initial wonder quickly dissipates and the game then fails to offer more interesting ideas to keep gamers occupied.