[Free-Game Friday is a new weekly feature in which a writer from the GamerLimit staff looks at a completely free game and discusses their experience with it, allowing you to download it at the end. Feel free to check out our full schedule right here!]
Knytt Stories was not what I expected. A minimalistic, short length platformer with your usual fixings, I was prepared for a lighthearted, pixelated adventure – not so much to ask from a freeware game.
As it turns out, Knytt Stories, a creation of indie game designer Nifflas, provides something entirely different. The game makes an excellent case for video games as a form of artistic expression. Yes, Knytt Stories presents the player with a goal and a variety of unlock-able tools for achieving it. Yet the real appeal of this game lies in the experience that it creates.
Knytt Stories centers around a “Knytt” named Juni who receives a missive from her friend, Henna, to rescue their world from a machine that appears to be drawing the life out of the planet. This is all the background gamers are presented with; the rest is left up to the players.
The gameplay is quite simple – in typical platforming style, gamers guide Juni through the environment, jumping across obstacles along the way. As one makes their way through the game, players may stumble upon tools to power up Juni with special abilities – double jumping, an umbrella for gliding – you may even gain the ability to create a hologram of yourself to distract enemies.
However, the ability to run up walls is perhaps the most enjoyable ability Juni receives. An unusual function in the platforming genre, this particular power up truly allows the gamer to think about the world in which Juni is placed in different ways. Climbing adds different ways to explore and overcome obstacles if you know how to take advantage of this power.
Herein lies the major draw of the game – using and seeking new abilities to allow you to explore. Nifflas creates an aesthetically stunning environment; this is surprising considering the game’s simplicity. The world of Knytt Stories is comprised of various areas, all seamlessly connected but highly unique. Starting in a red-hued wasteland, sliding down a crevasse will lead players to a sprawling subterranean cave. Select alcoves and tunnels are eerily lit by lamp posts. If you manage to find the path back up, you may find yourself jumping among stark mountain tops as the wind blows leaves past your face.
The music adds to the beauty of the game. The all original soundtrack is possibly one of the most impressive I’ve heard. It’s an entrancing mix of new wave electronica and melancholic guitar and orchestral melodies. I soon found myself relaxing and simply enjoying each discovery I made.
The music shifts depending on where you travel, altering the mood with each turn. The soundtrack matches perfectly with each area, truly creating an all encompassing experience. Wandering through a series of underwater pipes, the player is subject to a sparse, otherworldly synthesized soundtrack. When you climb out onto a sparse cliff face, you’re shocked to discover the only sounds you hear are the wind blowing and the sound of your own footsteps. Yet, fall down another cliff side and you find a green field with trees and butterflies, accompanied by sweeping string and orchestral harmonies.
As Juni, the player adopts a passive role; if you’re seeking to kill things, this probably isn’t the game for you. Few enemies appear throughout the game. If you manage to come across an aggressive creature, you are required to find a way around without putting yourself in danger. However, a few minutes into the game and players will have no desire for a more action packed experience. The need to continue exploring takes precedence.
For all of its delicate intricacies, Knytt Stories is quite short. Luckily, Nifflas doesn’t leave his fans stranded. For those who need more, there are two official expansion levels. Quite a community has been established around Knytt Stories as well. The game is highly customizable, and fans have created a plethora of levels of all shapes and sizes for players to try.
When it comes down to it, it’s difficult to put into words exactly what it’s like to play Knytt Stories. Luckily, you can find out for yourself by paying a visit to Nifflas’ Games. You’ll find, in addition to the game itself, Nifflas’ own expansion levels and links to the community where you’ll gain access to plenty of fan made levels to keep you busy.