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Knytt Underground (Wii U eShop) Review

Review for Knytt Underground on Wii U eShop - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

NightSky went from intriguing WiiWare outing to one of the best Nintendo 3DS eShop games of all time, and now its creator is back, this time on Wii U eShop, with Knytt Underground, a game of varying styles that proves looks are not everything. Be prepared for one of the most engrossing adventures of recent years.

Nicklas Nygren, who most will know by the name 'Nifflas,' has proven himself time and time again to be quite the impressive creator, coming up with intriguing concepts on a regular basis. The Knytt series has quite the cult following on PC, and this Wii U specific edition takes the idea and expands upon it to make what is undeniably one of the most engrossing gaming experiences since the magnificent Super Metroid. Quite the comparison, right? Well, in terms of map exploration, hidden secrets, and the collection of items that aid progression, it truly is magnificent and right up there with Nintendo's classic effort. Where the similarities end is in the other gameplay elements, which focus more on objective-led ventures and 'fetch' requests, with the ultimate aim to ring various bells dotted around the map in the hope of fulfilling a prophesy and preventing certain doom. There are no boss battles and only on the odd occasion is the player required to actually destroy an enemy in order to progress beyond them - normally avoiding them is the order of the day.

Screenshot for Knytt Underground on Wii U eShop - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Knytt Underground is split into three chapters, but the first two are mere tutorials to get players accustomed to the unusual gaming mechanics employed throughout. To start with, Mi Sprocket is taken control of; a mute Sprite (small human-looking character) that can cling onto walls and scurry upwards or downwards, providing access to all manner of seemingly unreachable locations. Once the initial challenge is completed, the next task is to work through a small map area as a ball that can bounce and respond to real-world physics as closely as could be expected from what is meant to be a not-so-serious gaming adventure, as opposed to a simulation. Clearly, aspects of NightySky have been lifted and perfectly transplanted into Knytt Underground, and it is really great to see the wonderful puzzle game being integrated so well into a grander 2D platform expedition.

Mi Sprocket is the sprite in question, being able to transform into a ball at will, and being accompanied by two fairies that help act as her voice, since sadly she is unable to converse with those she meets on the journey. The epic quest is to ring the six bells of fate…if failing to do so every six hundred years, a chain reaction will commence and the world as they know it will be obliterated. Or so people are led to believe, anyway…

Screenshot for Knytt Underground on Wii U eShop - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

The two fairies act as the flip sides of people's conscience, one being downright evil and the other pure - at least that is how things come across, to the point where one of the two sadly delves into profanity on far too often a basis as to become almost puerile in nature. There are moments of comedy gold, though, normally revolving around certain sarcastic conversations, but after the initial chuckle upon being shocked when reading the first bout of expletives, the impact soon wears off and it becomes distracting whenever it crops up.

Playing on the big screen with the map on the GamePad is one option, but personally it worked extremely well with all the action on the GamePad alone, bringing up the map with a simple button press. There are definitely benefits to the dual screen, with the map shown constantly rather than having to be brought up with a quick button press, but on a personal note the whole game felt greater on the contained, smaller screen of the GamePad.

Along the way, there are magical balls of light that can be found dotted around certain locations - white kills enemies, blue shoots Mi horizontally, red gives a quick upwards boost, yellow shoots Mi vertically, green allows for free movement around an area, whilst pink makes her invisible for a short while. These are used sparingly so as to not reduce the difficulty, and - as with switches that open doors on timers - are not always right next to the obvious place of use. Frustrating at first, this gradually becomes a challenge that is highly addictive and there is one particular secret off-map area where a combination of coloured balls must be used in just right way…and wow, patience will be tested, but the feeling of satisfaction afterwards makes it all worth it.

Screenshot for Knytt Underground on Wii U eShop - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Talking of frustrations, some may find the story to be rather disjointed and the objectives a little too obtuse for their liking. There are times where the fairies will stop Mi from interacting with non-playable characters for no particular reason, and certain missions cannot be accepted either. Annoying? Well, it all becomes part of the process, and it all makes sense after various events take place. Why can a fairy friend not be spoken to at one point and not another? After a particular trigger event, suddenly it becomes clear. Question Marks appear on the map when there are items of interest, and flashing squares indicate where players need to guide Mi most of the time, so there is always something pointing in roughly the right direction. However, some may find that navigating the map can sometimes not be as straightforward as expected. Saying that, though, tracing a pathway through the intricate maze comes with practice and soon enough players will be sending Mi leaping around, quickly switching into ball form and back again to swiftly charge through corridors, cling to walls, bounce over enemies, and so on, using nifty shortcuts along the way. Shortcuts… The amazing amount of hidden passageways is one of the highlights, leading to eagle-eyed gamers looking for even the tiniest of discrepancies in the surroundings. Spot something? Try to bounce there. Unable to do so? See if climbing and launching off a wall gets Mi there. Still no luck? Try finding a route higher up, transforming into ball to pick up enough velocity to hit the ground below hard and bounce higher than before, and then quickly change back into sprite form to cling onto a tiny protruding ledge. Bingo! It is indeed that addictive.

The huge world, quirky missions, oddball extras and other worlds to visit, and the stunning soundtrack that contains nearly five hours of music, all make Knytt Underground an absolute marvel to play through. If only the pointless expletives were omitted, and a little more emphasis on story development had been included, this would have been nigh on perfect. A serious must-buy on Wii U eShop.

Screenshot for Knytt Underground on Wii U eShop- on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Gameplay

The mix of regular platform action and puzzle shenanigans blend together wonderfully well, and the ability to explore pretty much everything visible on screen is wonderful - the lack of boundaries is astounding, as is the plethora of hidden items and passages to uncover, or even just stumble upon. Sure, there is some frustration at times, but normally down to not being able to reach a place via a particular method. The solution? Go off and complete some other objectives and come back with a fresh mind. There is always a way past, even if it is not obvious at first! Compelling stuff.

Graphics

Some may view the characters as too simplistic, whilst others may see them as purposefully being stylised in such a basic form for the sake of creating a unique art style. What cannot be argued, though, is how stunning the backgrounds are, using shadows, smoke, random high quality imagery and clever colour usage to craft amazing locales. Every area visited has its own distinct feel to it, complemented by the superlative soundtrack.

Sound

No voice acting, and some blips in the music like a CD changing tracks, but the sheer range of ambient tunes and the amazing quality far outweigh those two minor points. Every piece of music is so wonderfully emotional and more often than not, hooking up the GamePad to an external sound source and leaving the tunes playing repeatedly will become something of a regular occurrence. Moving, touching, stirring, and many other adjectives can be thrown at this splendid soundtrack.

Value

This game will consume most people's lives, and has the potential to keep going for far longer than even most Wii U retail games on the market today. The sheer pull of exploring every nook and cranny in the massive world alone is enough to keep some coming back time and time again, striving to figure out the best way to overcome those seemingly insurmountable obstacles or navigate to impossible locations. ANYTHING is possible in Knytt Underground. The actual story and missions are just a pleasing extra!

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

About this score
Rated 9 out of 10

An expansive masterpiece, with amazing controls, stunningly atmospheric music, an intriguing graphical approach and oddball story that keeps players on their toes. Tight controls and intriguing morphing abilities mean that every challenge is extremely enjoyable, and the entire world is open to exploration - no boundaries! Part of the fun is merely trying to fill every tiny part of the world map.

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25.01.2014

10

9301

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Developer

nifflas

Publisher

Ripstone

Genre

2D Platformer

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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Adam Riley
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Reader comments - add yours today Comments on this Review

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Played this a few hours on PS3, but think I began to get stuck and put it off. I'm gonna have to transfer this to my Vita now, as I would love to play it again, and it seems like the perfect handheld game. Was really quirky from what I remember, and quite funny, too.

Cubed3 Staff :: Senior Editor
...Upupu.
Follow me on: Twitter | YouTube | Backloggery
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

It is indeed funny, and the writing style is quite goofy at times. The quirkiness keeps it fun, but the Metroid-like exploration was what gripped me. Even when we had guests over at Christmas and New Year, I had my GamePad handily nearby so I could keep popping back onto it and fill in more gaps. Wait until you stumble across some of the random areas - I'm not spoiling things here, because finding them is the spoiler. Knowing about them will just be more of a teaser Smilie One of them is just plain wacky, and SO tough!

GamePad only all the way for me. Don't know about others...Liam's got this as well - not sure who else.

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

Holy fuck...didnt expect this score! Will definitely have to check this one out o_0

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Well worth getting, definitely. I spent FAR too long just wandering around trying to fill in EVERY piece of the map Smilie

I didn't like some of the religious mockery in the script...not quite sure what the developer was trying to prove with that. Whether Nifflas is a believer or not doesn't come across clearly; Christian with an open mind, or someone just out to denounce the beliefs of others?

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

Well I dont really care anyway? Looks like a great game by an actual artist - if religious people get offended, thats certainly not the first time...or last unfortunately. I dont think the creator should worry about that but from your words it sounds your christian, so that might be annoying if he doesnt take you seriously it seems.

Definitely going to get this, everyone is so enthusiastic about it and its also a bit stranger than most nintendo games. Smilie

Ok so is this game actually rated M? Cause the advertising Video I've seen marks it as such but I've got no clue how it could be classified with that rating? Can someone shed some light on this for me thanks.

It is not wise to speak on subjects you do not know all facts about, nor is it smart to judge a game based on looks alone. PSN: Nintendo_Gamer 3DS: 4296-3029-7422
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Potty mouthing.

Cubed3 Staff :: Senior Editor
...Upupu.
Follow me on: Twitter | YouTube | Backloggery
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Foul language and religious overtones, I'd say. Surprised it wasn't just a T rating, though.

EDIT: Oops!

( Edited 30.01.2014 20:33 by Adam Riley )

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Adam Riley said:
Foul language and religious overtones, I'd say. Surprised it was just a T rating, though.
You mean M? Seems to be M in the US, and 16 in Europe.

Cubed3 Staff :: Senior Editor
...Upupu.
Follow me on: Twitter | YouTube | Backloggery

Thanks guys I was really confused, given it's art direction I kinda figured language would be the only real of fence it could take.

It is not wise to speak on subjects you do not know all facts about, nor is it smart to judge a game based on looks alone. PSN: Nintendo_Gamer 3DS: 4296-3029-7422

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