You’ll either love it or hate it, but chances are good you’ll be absolutely baffled by it. Who’s at the door? It’s sinister horror-fest Knock Knock, out now on iPhone and iPad…
Knock Knock is one of those games that inevitably divides players into two separate camps. Some will think it’s a masterfully suspenseful and stylish slice of survival horror, to be commended for respecting its audience’s intelligence and refusing to hold our hands as we embark on the unsettling journey within. And there’ll be others who think it’s a massive sack of smelly hooey.
Russian developer Ice-Pick Lodge (best known for the wrist-slashingly depressing game Pathologic) has ported its PC indie horror title Knock Knock onto iOS, so you can comfortably ‘enjoy’ its sinister company in bed on your iPhone or iPad. Both us and the game highly recommend playing in the dark with headphones – almost all of the impact is lost if you’re sat on a brightly-lit bus, surrounded by hacked-off commuter drones.
Describing the game in 500 words or so is pretty much impossible, but here we go. You play a creepy-looking nameless fella known as the Lodger, who finds himself kept awake at night by horrifying sounds in his suitably creepy house. You know nothing about him at the start of the game, or indeed about what you’re supposed to be doing. All you can do is set off exploring the house, to see what happens.
The meaty bits of Knock Knock have you playing a rather twisted game of hide-and-seek with malevolent invading forces, desperately trying to survive until dawn. Time ticks down on a weird-looking clock in the top left corner, and can be sped up by finding time boosters hidden about the house. However, taking a hit from a spectre knocks time back or fails the level entirely, so you’ll need to use all your wits to make it to sunrise.
Controls are suitably simple: just tap the left and right sides of the screen to move in those directions, swipe up in a room to fix the always-busted lightbulb, swipe up again to turn it off and on once it’s mended, and do a bit of tapping to head up and down stairs, unlock doors or hide behind bits of scenery.
Hiding is a key tactic in Knock Knock, as is running the hell away from any approaching gribblies – the game definitely takes after horrors like Amnesia, which leave you completely defenceless and at the mercy of the many nasties, rather than action-based games like Resident Evil. The lack of weapons greatly adds to the tension, which is perfectly set up by the creepy soundtrack.
We found ourselves constantly cursing and sweating at the many bangs, scrapes and grisly sounds that were pumped into our ears non-stop. Worst of all, when the ghostly invaders enter your home and start roaming the corridors, they actively taunt you. “There’s no point,” they might whisper as you desperately scrabble to fix a lightbulb, or even worse, “I’ll make it quick”. Definitely brown trousers time.
Not all of the effect work as they should: for instance, the weird eyeball things that peer in through the walls are rather bright and cartoony, rather than creepy as hell. But for the most part, the atmosphere is well managed and horribly tense.
Knock Knock is definitely an unusual and intriguing experience, but for a long time you’ll have absolutely no idea what the rules of the game are. Occasionally you’ll simply walk through a door and find yourself transported into a weird different realm, or you’ll seemingly fail the level for no reason at all. Eventually you’ll figure out the basics and learn to pick up on subtle cues, but even after a few hours of playing, we still occasionally found ourselves befuddled.
So, patience is key. If you hate not knowing what you’re doing, Knock Knock is not the game for you. If you’re a horror fan, however, we recommend checking it out. It’s stylish and sinister enough to hook you in, at least for a little while. If you’ve played Knock Knock, let us know what you think in the comments below.