In Knock Knock, you play as a nameless protagonist who looks like he hasn’t slept in a week. Dark circles ring his wide, tired eyes and his posture is slumped over as if he’s perpetually ducking out of the way of invisible enemies. The truth of the situation isn’t particularly far from this, as the poor fellow is haunted by ghosts that invade his home during the night. Left to his own devices, our hero must survive the night by avoiding ghosts that prowl darkened rooms and basements. On paper, Knock Knock is a nice slice of survival horror, one that forces you to hide from ghosts rather than fight them. While the game does succeed at being scary, those feelings give way to confusion and frustration because of poorly implemented mechanics.
Knock Knock doesn’t explain itself particularly well. The general idea is to work your way through the house each night, seeking out clocks that help advance the time much faster than normal while at the same time uncovering hiding spots to take cover in when ghosts make their way into the room. The layout of the house changes in each level, which does add a nice layer of confusion and tension as you wander from room to room, but I soon discovered that hiding from ghosts is more trouble than it’s worth. If a ghost is in the room, sometimes the protagonist will make mention of an incoming spirit and give you some time to hide, you’ll see it scan the area from its point of view. If the hero is caught, he is sent back to the beginning of the night to try again. The thing is, I routinely found myself getting caught for no apparent reason. I hid behind beds and extensive pipe network with my lantern turned off and would keep getting sent to the beginning.
Knock Knock doesn’t have the look of a high-end Silent Hill or Resident Evil game but the visuals and sound design are awesome and really effective at turning the psychological screws on the player. The main character speaks in a sort of Simlish-style gibberish, his confusing words translated into on-screen text. On a more frightening level, the ghosts that invade the character’s home speak clear English, whispering various words and phrases as they hunt and cajole their victim. It’s pretty effective and it was enough to get me looking over my shoulder and leaving the lights on. I wanted to enjoy the scares a lot more but the confusion that permeates through the entire game made it difficult to get into.
Knock Knock is driven by a neat idea and an evocative presentation. It’s a shame, then, that its goodwill is hampered by gameplay that feels a little broken. To give it the benefit of the doubt, the issues I ran into seem to be a result of the game not going far enough to give the player a proper explanation outside a few needlessly cryptic notes in between stages. The game is equipped with the right scares but I found it hard to invest in the experience because of frequent, unknown fail states.
Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.