Continuing to churn out some rather unusual games, ID@Xbox’s latest indie offering is a dramatic and twisting story told in the form of a play. Knee Deep, Prologue Games unique adventure game sees the player jumping between three different characters, whose lives are brought together by the “apparent” suicide of a film star. The way in which the developer tells Knee Deep‘s story is something quite different and enticing, but once it draws you in, does this intriguing drama manage to hold your attention?
Knee Deep: Xbox One [Reviewed], PS4, PC
Developer: Prologue Games
Publisher: Wales Interactive
Release Date: 3 February 2017
Price: £11.99 [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Publisher]
Knee Deep begins with the player character seated amongst the audience of a theatre show, devouring snacks, checking the play’s bill, ensuring one’s mobile phone is on silent. Bizarrely, the show’s producer then informs you that this is in fact, your show and that the outcome of it will depend directly on the decisions you make as the game’s individual characters, which certainly sounds intriguing from the off, and from there we jump straight into the game.
Hanging from a water tower is Tag Kern, an actor who prior to his apparent suicide was filming in Cypress Knee. Knee Deep sees players take on the role of three different characters – Ramona, Jack and KC, whose paths cross because of Kern’s unfortunate death. A game full of mystery and intrigue, there is clearly more going on here than meets the eye, and the town is drenched in scandal, making the actual story of the game both engaging and fun, if not a little over complicated at times to understand.
True to its word, the game reacts to the choices you make, and these choices are made either through conversations or online posts/reports. The gameplay of Knee Deep revolves mostly around conversations with other people, and because of this, it can become a little repetitive at times, with the player forced to constantly press buttons and very little else.
Knee Deep alerts you when an important choice is about to made, so if you wish to get creative with your decision making you can, however, ultimately the game will end pretty much in the same way, barring a few critical choices which can save or condemn certain characters.
Each character has their own personality and thus will react to other characters differently with three or four remarks available to continue each conversation. For example, Ramona can answer most questions with strange responses, which is more than a little amusing at times.
Players act out a couple scenes as each individual character before jumping to the next, meaning the game manages to avoid becoming stale. Its story is split into three separate acts, all of which end abruptly, like the intermission of a theatre show. This rather bizarre theme is one of the game’s strongest points with “oohs” and “aahs” directed from the audience as characters reveal secrets and plot twists which is very much amusing, especially if you happen to find yourself reacting the same way.
What starts out as a simple suicide investigation becomes more bizarre the further you push on as Knee Deep‘s story transcends into something more than a little unbelievable, whether this is a plus or a negative will depend on how you want your stories to be told, and whether bringing people back from the dead is a viable aspect of any good game.
The constant switching between characters, scenes, as well as the past and present, Knee Deep can be a little hard to follow in some instances and may result in you aimlessly pushing buttons without fully paying attention. Couple that with Knee Deep‘s unusual story and you could find a good number of players quickly losing interest with too much information thrown at them all at once, which is a shame.
Additionally, Knee Deep‘s look does it no favours at all. The movement of the game’s characters tends to be jerky on occasion, and the overall theme of the game is rather dull, dark and generally uninteresting. The characters themselves all have very different personalities, and you most likely enjoy some of the more eccentric people you’ll meet on your travels, who succeed in helping to keep you engaged in the game.
When you aren’t constantly clicking buttons to reply to people, there are a few little mini games and puzzles on offer to give you a break. Playing a mini version of whack-a-mole and connecting wires may not sound the most interesting of mini games, but each serves its own purpose, which is to break away from the conversational aspect that dominates the gameplay.
Unfortunately, I encountered a few glitches while trying to complete these. More specifically, when attempting to put a QR code together as the in-game cursor frustratingly jumped to the back of the screen, leaving me unable to complete the code at all, before eventually managing to glitch it back to the foreground. There were also times where I couldn’t actually select an option during a conversation which left me with no choice but to reload the game, thankfully there are frequent saves in Knee Deep, meaning little progress was actually lost.
For the completionists out there, Knee Deep‘s Achievements vary from conversational responses to certain story actions, while a few are based around the player having to make certain choices at pivotal points in the game. With a little bit of time invested and grinding, the game offers a fairly easy completion, as well as a reasonably quick one, once you know what to do and when to do it.
Knee Deep is a rather unusual adventure style game, that is successful in some areas and less so in others. For a game focusing largely on conversations, it is surprisingly fun and engaging. The story, if not a little over the top and confusing, does draw you in, and make you ant to see its conclusion. The characters also offer a lot of fun moments, those both playable and NPCs. Unfortunately, the game is let down by its repetitive nature, the appearance of some glitches and the fact that it is a little too hard to follow at times. Overall, though, the game is fun and easily recommendable to someone that wants to play a game with a difference. Whilst you may not end up knee deep in it, it may come up to your ankles at least.