Journey through the depths
Knytt Underground on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita begins long after the human race has become extinct. The planet surface is scorched from a long forgotten disaster, leaving the surviving species of sprites and fairies to retreat underground to rebuild civilization.
Surrounded by the discarded remains of the human race, these tiny creatures have founded their beliefs on the artefacts they have discovered. One of their more infrequent rituals is that every 600 years, six bells must be rung by a sprite from the Sprocket family, or the world will end. And as the ritual comes round once again, it falls to a young girl named Mi to venture through the buried land to find the bells, and save the world.
What is beautiful about Knytt Underground's story is that it acts as a framework for dozens of other small tales that Mi experiences on her journey. Some of these stories require her to help fairies move an avocado up a cliff to feed their village, while others see her stand up to corrupt property developers. Mi doesn't have to undertake any of these quests, although what she sees stays with her and affects the emerging tale.
Going deeper underground
Moving through Knytt Underground's silhouetted and wonderfully designed world feels like walking through an art gallery. Behind each screen sits a different photo that sets the perfect mood for the action, with backgrounds that range from tranquil underwater areas to intimidating darkness. Viewed on the PlayStation Vita system's crisp touchscreen or in High Definition on PlayStation 3, the impactful visuals bring your exploration to incredible life.
The tiny lead character, Mi, adds scale and awe to this world. Flowers tower over her, while other areas see her exploring the remains of human society where massive cogs and gears hang menacingly in the background.
Knytt Underground's music beautifully complements the look and scale of the world. As each environment changes appearance, so do the melodies that accompany them. Moving through areas surrounded by water, you're met by drifting aquatic sounds that create a sense of wonder. Music is used sparingly, switching between intimidating screams to total silence, with only Mi's footfalls showing any sign of life...
Mi and you
Mi is the mute hero of Knytt Underground. Although she is an adventurous young sprite who is destined to save the world, her only real desire is to be able to speak. Heading to the Fairy Fountain, Mi wishes for a voice. The fairies have made a good career giving people the confidence they need to follow their dreams, while pretending it's magic. Mi needs more substantial help however, so fairies Dora and Cillia volunteer to accompany her as her voice.
It's a superb dynamic as either Cillia or Dora can be selected to talk on Mi's behalf. Their conflicting backgrounds reflect Knytt Underground's two primary belief systems: Cillia turns to faith for her answers, while Dora follows the philosophy of the internet, and relies on scientific evidence.
Their beliefs affect how they interact with Knytt Underground's many inhabitants. If Cillia speaks for Mi, the conversation is friendly without addressing the issue, while Dora is frequently rude and confronts the problem. As each develop with Mi on their adventure, the touching dialogue perfectly represents the flaws in both beliefs, creating a thoughtful way to engage this with fascinating world.
One small jump for Mi
Knytt Underground is a platform game in which you explore each screen to find new challenges and people to meet. Spanning more than 1,000 rooms spread across three chapters, the key to finding every secret and quest is to master the game's two main mechanics, climbing and bouncing.
Introduced in the first chapter, climbing is easy to grasp. Mi can shimmy up vertical surfaces and, by jumping from one wall to the next, she can navigate any troubling overhangs that block her path. It doesn't take long to get a firm grip on the climbing, and by the end of the chapter even the trickier high altitude puzzles start to fall into place.
Chapter two switches the action to a ball-like creature called Bob. Unlike Mi, all Bob can do is bounce. Learning to control the speed and distance of these bounces is tricky yet hilariously enjoyable, as uneven ground can result in the ball shooting off in all manner of unexpected directions.
In the final chapter these powers come together, with Mi able to turn into a ball at the touch of a button. This allows for some fascinating puzzles that can span several screens. There is a real tension to shimmying up a wall as Mi, before leaping off and turning into a ball to try and bounce off the top of a thin column to reach a platform three screens away. Can you master these techniques in this unique underground adventure?