It only seems appropriate to bring Knyttmas to a close with a level I stumbled upon where Juni must save Knyttmas. This is a very peaceful level where the only remote sense of danger comes from a small amount of water which poses no actual threat and only really exists for the sake of enhancing the scene. The journey here is little more than a straight line back and forth with a few hills and bumps along the way, but this linearity is completely fine as the focus here is on providing a relaxing atmosphere with some nice scenery to look at. While platforming beyond making a few hops isn’t necessary, there are a few small secrets scattered around slightly off of the beaten path. I am also glad that the game makes players walk back to the start after activating the snow machine as it would have likely been easier to cover the journey with a few picture in an ending slideshow, but being able to witness the way the snow has changed the landscape on the way back is a great reward. Snow Machine makes for a wonderfully calming experience as its lack of danger and its straightforward approach properly capture the relaxing nature of taking a stroll through the snow.
Monthly Archive: December 2016
Now here’s a good puzzle level! Entrapment makes full use of its room, cramming switches, puzzles, and paths into every inch of it. There are a good number of puzzles here and one aspect nearly all of them have in common is they require the player to figure out what even needs to be done in the first place. Sure, a mysterious old man may pop up occasionally to give some advice, but the hints remain vague enough that players will still need to explore in order to find solutions. Even when you figure out what needs to be done in order to solve a puzzle, the exact way to go about achieving the desired end result usually requires some additional consideration and/or a bit of platforming. Puzzles are also kept small and fast, making for an experience where you’ll constantly need to stop and think for long enough to make solving each puzzle feel satisfying, but where you are unlikely to get stuck for more than a handful of minutes at most. There are a few times in this level when it is not immediately clear if a puzzle has, in fact, been solved so a little more clarity in the form of a brief message could have been added in that regard, but other than that rather minor complain I think this is an all-around exceptional level and one of the best I’ve played in Below Kryll.
Even if it’s not exactly the prettiest level out there, Level 5 has some solid design choices. The initial stretch only has some standard platforming and quickly hands out new abilities, though even this part has a bit of a puzzle element to it when it forces players to find a safe route around an electrical enemy. Things get more interesting once you get the umbrella with a long downward obstacle course and some tricky gliding. The puzzle mechanics start to show up more clearly once players reach Level 4 and need to solve two switch code puzzles in a row. Finding the solutions to these puzzles is a small challenge in its own right and figuring out how to properly apply the hidden codes to the switches is another puzzling task as the answer requires the use of some deductive reasoning. The finale of the stage is the first part where Juni is allowed to break free from the otherwise mostly linear progression as players must navigate old areas in reverse with some new hazards in order to even find Level 5. Aesthetics are the only major weakness this level possesses as the standard Knytt Stories music chosen doesn’t mesh well with the graphics and the spikes can sometimes be hard to see, though I do appreciate the work that went into making the level transition ‘animations’ by rapidly swapping through several similar rooms like a video game version of a flip book.
This level can take a while to reach because it’s on one of the deeper floors, but it’s worth it! Switch Bonanza is, unsurprisingly, all about hitting switches. Specifically, this level is broken up into five smaller ‘levels’ and a not at all serious tutorial, all of which make use of switches in different ways. The first part is a platforming race to the finish before the gate closes, the second is a short trip across a gap using dragon statue projectiles (this one in particularly is ridiculously difficult if you don’t have Mitsu’s later abilities unlocked), the third is divided between a platforming challenge and a very tightly timed switch race, the fourth is mostly a puzzle, and the fifth demands accurate kunai throwing and some quick thinking. The amount of variety on display here is impressive enough on its own, but I am even more impressed by the lack of a single bad or even mediocre challenge between them; I think the second challenge feels somewhat out of place due to just how much more difficult it is compared to the rest of the level, but even that is only a minor complaint. By expertly blending puzzles, platforming, and precision, this level excels at taking full advantage of the flexibility offered by Below Kryll‘s engine.
NOTE: There’s no video this time around as several large portions of this level contain copyrighted material.
Banishment is focused almost entirely on its story and atmosphere with a small amount of platforming near the start. The setup of Juni being accused of murder and banished after a villager dies in a mining accident is definitely on the dark side of things and allows for two particularly strong points for this level. First, the villagers have a nicely varied set of reactions when Juni approaches them as some believe she is a killer, others believe she is innocent, and others are neutral or don’t seem to know who Juni is, making for a world which doesn’t seem to revolve entirely around its protagonist. Secondly, the village itself is big and has many entirely optional places to go to, such as the mine and the farm; there’s no physical reward for exploration, but it helps to enhance the setting by making the village feel like a real place. The weakest part of the level by far is when Juni has to arbitrarily platform her way through a cave with some water hazards to get a key which will allow her to leave the village. The platforming challenges aren’t bad and are easy enough, though there’s no checkpointing, but it does feel like an unnecessary step which somewhat spoils the atmosphere. The second half of the game involves Juni’s journey across desolate lands as ancient ruins and dark caves intertwine with Juni’s own fears. The game uses sounds and visuals during this portion to great effect to convey the sense of fear and isolation that comes from banishment without relying on words. The ending is a little cheesy and the level could really do without the cave portion, but Banishment otherwise makes for a compellingly atmospheric short story.