When I saw the title for Knee Deep, my initial reaction was "Sweet! I just hope that it's like a DOOM fan game or something! Yes, I'm so good at picking games!". Then I researched and found out that it's actually a three act, cinematic adventure game which tries to mimic the atmosphere and aesthetic of a theatre (as in the place that you go to watch opera and stage plays, not the place you go to watch movies), developed by newcomer studio Prologue Games. My next impression then was "Oh boy here we go, another game that tries way too hard to be a Telltale Games clone. I just hope that it won't be as blatant about it as I think it's going to be." It was as blatant about it as I thought it was going to be.
To be fair, I cannot solely blame the studio for taking this route, it's just too tempting. Every single adventure game right now is trying to be Telltale in some form or another. To be more precise, every single adventure game right now is trying to be The Walking Dead, that was back when Telltale had seemingly reached their creative peak. But you see, Telltale's own brand of choice driven games, whatever your thoughts about them may be, work better because they usually tend to focus on making a good story and creating complex, three dimensional or at the very least quirky characters. They don't wager their soul on one mediocre mystery that can't sustain itself for any longer than 15 minutes. The stories of Telltale games are dependent on the characters, not the mystery.
Knee Deep, on the other hand, has neither a good story nor any interesting characters, the main characters are either simple archetypes that you've seen over a million times already with zero deviation from the mapped out formula or just so annoying that they make you clench your teeth in disgust.
As we've discussed before, when your gameplay is a literal carbon copy of past adventure games, when your characters are trite, when the dialogue trees never quite mesh together, the only possible selling points you have left to distinguish yourself from the crowd are an interesting mystery or an original art style. Speaking of the mystery, it becomes difficult to keep one once you introduce a cult into the plot. Everyone knows that in most fiction, cults are usually up to no good and are probably pulling the strings of the plot.
Perhaps the only compliment I can give to Knee Deep is that it's truly ambitious, especially in terms of its atmosphere. It really commits to it's promise of keeping you immersed in a sort of meta-fiction, The only criticism I can give about the theatre aspect is that every single time a scene ends, the scene quite literally changes right before our very eyes. In an actual theatre when a scene ends, the curtains fall, the lights dim, and then the scene changes, thought I realize that I'm just nitpicking here.
In the end, what I'm trying to explain here boils down to this: Is Knee Deep worth it? Is Knee Deep, with so many alternatives available whether you are looking for an adventure game or a deep, thought provoking indie game, really worth it. If you're looking for a good adventure game with choice driven dialogue that impacts the overall story, I would suggest you check out a Telltale game that has been relesed in the last 3-4 years, or maybe Grim Fandango, I know that it's a bit old school but come on it's good.
The quintessential hype-man that this site deserves and needs. Will write for space games.