September 9th, 2008
Knytt Stories is an independently produced game by Nifflas, you can download the game for free here (Should be the right address, can’t see the site over here).
Knytt Stories is a petite platformer containing a selection of separate ‘stories’ loosely based around the adventures Juni; a young, seemingly frail girl. When you download this title it comes with a tutorial and a main story called ‘The Machine’, the stories then come from additional content by the developers and fans which can also be downloaded from the website. Kyntt Stories is basically Nifflas’ previous project ‘Kyntt’ with some more sophisticated updates or so it seems, I’m yet to play much of Kyntt yet.
The following is a critique of ‘The Machine’; the game that comes with the download but since all of the stories use the same template, the critique basically covers them all.
The Machine begins with Juni receiving a letter of distress from a friend who has noticed a change come over the landscape, consuming the environment around her in lifelessness. She is worried and thinks that it might be the result of a machine recently built near her house, but she herself is too afraid to turn it off as a monster blocks the way in. Unsure of what to do she wrote a plea for Juni to help. This short message leaves only one clue, that is to travel west to meet this person.
This letter is a perfect metaphor to introduce you to the solace of Kyntt Stories. Everything in this game is kept to a minimum, focusing on the simple pleasures connecting the empty visual and aural presentation to Juni’s dynamics.
The environments are barren and empty, emphasized by the extended widescreen format. Trees in the background remain still, water trickles quietly and the creatures sleep stationary until disturbed. The music enhances this feeling of quiet desolation with ambient waves of sound mixed with natural noises of wind gushing and chimes ringing. Too often though the music slows to a silence, broken by the sound of Juni’s feet.
The character Juni is a silent one, only subtle touches of personality are ever expressed. They come through the light-weight momentum as you move Juni over ledges and throw her gentle body into the breeze. It is through the combination of Juni’s graceful kinetics and how it breaks the emptiness of the environment that you begin to build a connection to the game. It draws you in with all it’s subtly and it does a marvelous job at it.
You begin your journey with the one thought in mind – to travel west – and as you do so you meet an area which seems, as of yet, unreachable. While you will find areas like this often, you never feel road-blocked; the game never deliberately puts something in your path to obscure you from traveling. In such a way, this also illusions you into believing that the environment is completely open to explore, giving you the feeling of freedom. This goes hand in hand with Juni’s controls which allow her to climb infinitely tall faces.
The obstacle presented is beyond your reach, but that’s okay because you thought you noticed something before that seems out of place. That slightly out of place chunk of landscape, which you soon return to, presents another thread for you to follow. And then as you are following that thread, other threads will open up, prompting you to become more aware of your surroundings.
It is through the process of following threads and paying attention to the nuances in the environment that you will eventually make your ways backwards and then again forwards to overcome that first problem you faced.
Each of these strings that you’ll follow opens up a small sub-world with its own connection to nature. Colour and pattern heightening the thematic distinction and it binds together a very diverse world to explore.
Then you reach the end and it is over just as quickly as it started. Your small dash through this world built of sprites. I liked ‘The Machine’ and look forward to playing the rest of Kyntt Stories.