Ice-Pick Lodge is a PC game studio out of Russia. They are best known for the psychological game know as Pathologic. They’ve also made The Void and Cargo. For their fourth game (Knock Knock), Ice-Pick Lodge went the Kickstarter route to secure funding.
There’s a group of us at Diehard GameFAN that love Ice-Pick Lodge and supported their vision of creating a sense of “breeze holes” (their words). The goal of the studio is to distribute the game and remind them that playing the game will not only affect their computer hardware, but also their soul. You don’t just play an Ice-Pick Lodge game, you experience it. Knock Knock is their latest and, from the preview build I’ve played, most polished effort yet.
Knock Knock is about a hermit who lives alone in the woods. His sense of reality is either very grounded or very shielded. What is known is that he is in the deep woods, by himself, and he has been recently having trouble sleeping. There are guests that want to visit our hermit, out there in the woods. Something beyond mere normal explanations. Our hermit friend must play a game of hide and seek with his uninvited guests until morning. Should he survive, he may learn more about what is really going on. He’ll just need to fix his house, remain sane, and hide from that which seeks to open his eyes. However, he will have to venture out into that forest, return, and find that his house is different… but not. It remains the same to him, his mind fighting what his eyes present every step of the way. Or maybe we’re the ones who aren’t seeing the truth.
The game itself is a 2D side scroller with occasional forays either forward or backwards in planes. The art style is very faerie tale inspired, with sense of nightmarish style that tows the line between fascinating and wicked. Your friend is light. Only when in the light can you reveal what rooms in the house hold and stave off your guests. You need to reveal these locations because that is your only place to hide from your oh so much fun guests. Lights are fragile and apt to break, so managing them becomes a necessity. The simple WASD + E or Space controls add to the odd childlike vibe the game has – you’re playing a very serious version of a child’s game. The controls are responsive and easy to learn, but the true nature of the game comes from anticipating what is needed and discovering where your home has failed you.
Time is your friend and enemy. In the time I played, finding places to hide, then finding where the creatures are coming from, meant managing just when it was worth the risk to light a room and when it was better to lurch towards another place to cower. The hermit speaks in a strange, mumbly tone but it adds to the entire feeling. He rambles about his life philosophy and how things aren’t really happening. The absolute worst thing is watching the clock lurch back, away from the lifesaving dawn. The dark, and its friends, pull you away from the light. It makes things stop and pulls you away from what needs to be done. There is so much left unsaid. I really hope to dive in the full game and learn just what is going on.
There are voices in this game, either in his head or outside. This, coupled with the ambient audio already in the game, helps punctuate how alone the hermit is… and how much danger he is in. Knock Knock compels you to focus on it and what it means to play a game. Ice-Pick Lodge seems to have hit a beautiful stride in game play (something they’ve been criticized about before), adding to their already amazing ability to create messages and worlds. Honestly, this has been one of my most eagerly anticipated games for the last year and after playing this preview, I may have set my sights lower than what will be delivered.
Knock Knock is close. I suggest you lock your door, turn off your lights, shoo away your loved ones, and buy it when it gets released for PC on October 4th.