Knee Deep, a new Noir inspired Adventure game developed by Prologue Games, set within a changing little city of Cypress Knee trying to distance itself from its “racist” past as well as trying to improve it’s standing in the world with new renovations, a new mayoral vote and much more. Following in suit of Telltales Games coming out of late, from Borderlands to the older Wolf Among Us, Knee Deep is an episodic game that comes in 3 acts with the final act releasing just a few days ago.
Setting itself up as a “play” or “show” in a theatre, Knee Deep will have you control 3 different protagonists who each have a connection with one another. Romana Teague, the “artsy” looking Blogger who gives me a flashback to Nico from Broken Sword. Jack Bellet the down to earth reporter who is the normal kind of fellow you’d see in one of those cop shows out nowadays, horrible ex-wife and all. Finally we have K.C. Gaddis the token black guy of the group, combined with a bad past, criminal record as well as giving a darker noir tone to the game when you play through his eyes.
These 3 all share a common job style, finding clues and making news or reports of those clues, with each of them working for different firms that centre themselves in the immediate area. Starting us off with the apparent suicide of a local actor by hanging himself from a tower, the cast will talk to the populace and those with connections to the newly deceased, writing up blog posts, reports and the like to their websites and bosses. However as the party delve deeper it seems the suicide was only the first step in a major conspiracy plan for money, power as well as a possible religious movement.
The game comes in Acts, from 1 to 3, though each act is around 60-100 minutes long, the entire game will last around 3 hours or so, with some replayability due to the multiple choices you can make in the game, which have a change in cast and endings. I can’t say too much in favour of playing this game multiple times due to how slow paced it feels on top of the emptiness felt from your choices in the separate acts. The only real way to speed through is the rapidly press one of the face buttons on your controller.
While I reference Telltale Games when talking about Knee Deep, it only really shares the story and dialogue options in earnest. You cannot control anything in the game besides pressing the 1-4 options in conversation or the order you talk to people in. Controller is mainly the face buttons, but with mouse you can actually click on the options, leading to not so engaging design.
Most of the game is talking to people, without much choice in the matter as you only choose the first person to talk to, the character then moving onto the next in the line either way. The gameplay is more akin to a Visual novel in that sense, only turning the page. Besides talking to characters you are given a few “puzzles” to solve in the game, around 3-4 different ones to “figure out”. The puzzles all share a rotation mechanic to piece together a finger print or password, beside a Simon Says puzzle at one point. I put these puzzles in quotation marks due to the fact the answers are given to you on a platter, when you find the right place for a piece of the puzzle or a number it will light up for you to place it down, with most puzzles being completed in a matter of minutes.
Taking away almost all control of the characters away from you really makes this game feel empty and boring for the majority of its run time. The puzzles are fun for the first minute but hat quickly dies as it’s just a matter of moving the piece around until they light up, with not timers or consequence for getting them wrong, like most of the game, no timers on conversations or “right” option. Even in the beginning of the game it tells you that you cannot fail, only try other paths. Broken Sword did this with its remasters which really took away from the excitement of the game, without the fear of failure you can’t really get invested in the characters or put much thought in your actions.
Overall Thoughts and Feelings
The Audio in the game is appalling, as it is in a theatre all the voices echo as well as being of low audio quality. On top of the bad voices the sound effects and ambience are painful to listen to, the start of this game has to be the worst I’ve ever experience, no one likes a traffic jam especially when the noise is turned to full. While the audio has its problems the music doesn’t do much to help, with scarce tracks that fade into the background you will wonder if there even is an OST to go with the game. That’s not to say there is no single good song on the soundtrack, but they are too few and far between.
The game is quirky, very quirky, trying new things in a day and age where every game is like the one before it, coming high off the heels of other Adventure games Knee Deep tries to set itself too far apart. Clicking a single button for an entire game is boring, feeling more like a book then a gaming experience, but Knee Deep doesn’t even reward you for that button press most of the time. Characters feel empty and that isn’t helped much when most of the cast aren’t interacted with for long, conversations starting just as abruptly as they end.
Knee Deep gets a 4/10, it is not worth the asking price and it is hard to call it a game against all the other “point and click” or “adventure” games out right now. You will just be pressing A for most of it or scrolling over the options. The ending is as lacklustre as the rest of the game with only 1 real time-crucial decision. Combined with the short length I don’t see many people finding enjoyment out of this game. The jokes here and there are rather funny, along with the out-of-the-box theatre setting that is a breath of fresh air. The whole package feels unrefined and rushed, it had potential but it wasn’t quite harnessed enough.