I’d recently purchased Knytt Underground for my Vita and begun playing it this weekend. I’ve had the game for a week or two, but I waited until I could really devote some time to it because I’d heard it was the biggest Metroidvania game ever created. Whoever said that wasn’t lying! I nearly shat myself when I saw the in-game map.
Who’s ready for a rousing game of Ultra Pac-Man?
However, that wait ultimately ruined the game for me as waiting gave me time to read what others were saying about it, such as the review found in the newest issue of Game Informer.
It’s like a Kingdom of Mushrooms! How original!
That review wasn’t very favorable for the game, though it wasn’t damning either. In fact, the author Jeff Marchiafava said a lot of great stuff about the game. He also said something in his article that, at the time, I thought wasn’t a very big deal, but I’d soon find that the little bug he put in my ear would affect my attitude toward the game:
“Exploring every map cell becomes a grind and requires a lot of backtracking, but I was compelled to see what happened when I rung the final bell [to save the world]. Unfortunately, the ending is an utter letdown.” – Jeff Marchiafava
I try my best not to let people influence my gaming choices, but, considering how glowingly he’d presented the game until that sentence, this comment stayed in my mind. Now, there’s something to be said about the power of priming because I couldn’t get Marchiafava’s comment out of my head: “the ending is an utter letdown.” I kept thinking back to that comment and, as I played Knytt Underground, my attitude toward the game got increasingly sour.
I don’t even know where I am. But it’s all just so pretty!
I started the game with a good enough disposition. I love running around in Metroidvania games, and KU‘s environments were stunning, creative and creepy, sometimes simultaneously. Yet, as I continued playing and thinking about what Marchiafava said, I found myself losing motivation. I tried to use the game’s unique aesthetic to keep me going, but after hours of running around and then legitimately getting bored, I put the game down.
The game does a lot of things wrong. For instance, it’s standard that you can’t reach areas in Metroidvania games until you’ve grabbed an upgrade. KU‘s lone upgrade lets you morph into a bouncy ball, and then that’s it. There’s no other sense of improvement you get about your character beyond getting that upgrade. Secondly, the game only has two quests that are repeated ad nauseum: go here, and collect shit. There’s nothing beyond that. After you come to terms with those two realization, you’re left with a game about walking and climbing with very little enemies or obstructions. It’s boring.
I can’t be the only person that finds these parts scary as hell.
After putting KU down, I got onto YouTube to view its ending, and… yeah, it’s ass. It’s really bad to the point that it feels lazy. I don’t want to spoil anything (like there’s anything to spoil), so I’ll say this: I think it’s some kind of meta joke. Nifflas, the game’s developer, is also an in-game character who constantly breaks the fourth wall. In the ending, he proclaims that the game’s “lack of ending” is a metaphor, one upon which he doesn’t feel inclined to elucidate apparently.
Nifflas’s in-game sprite looks amazing!
Because I love you guys, here’s my reading of the ending:
Throughout the game, many characters impress upon you the philosophy of agnosticism, the school of thought that deities’ existence or non-existence cannot be proven. I feel the game’s abrupt and unsatisfying ending reflects this existential uncertainty, especially in relation to the afterlife. I think Nifflas is saying, “Be prepared for your ending not to be what you want it to be,” if you get my drift.
As melancholy as that sounds, some of the characters that express this notion of agnosticism actually have an uplifting message to send as well: Let people believe whatever they want to believe, as long as it makes them a better person.
I guess I can get behind that.
Hmm… let me consult my magic 8-ball.
In the end, the poignant theme and ending, regardless of subjectivity and whether or not the execution was successful, doesn’t work because the game’s just so boring and repetitive. One could argue that being boring and repetitive enforces the theme, but the fact of the matter is I spent $15 on a boring-ass game that didn’t satisfy me. In any other service I’m entitled to get my money back, but – as is standard in the industries of video games, movies, and music – I’d be better off going and fucking myself.
Anyway, I feel having prior knowledge of the game’s ending shouldn’t have had so much influence over me, but because the game was just so boring I knew I had nothing to look forward to, which made quitting seem that much better. Had I been oblivious to the awful ending, I may have endured the grinding and repetition, though my unbridled rage would have been apocalyptic.
What do you guys think? Is my reading of the ending on the nose or off base? Is a game’s ending so important that it can make or break a gaming experience? Should I give the game another go?
Let me know in the comments below! And Thanks For Your Playing!