Knee Deep – Act 1 Wonderland

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Spend a night at the theatre!
“When a washed-up actor hangs himself on location, a spotlight is cast on the backwater Florida town of Cypress Knee. Your screen becomes a stage on which you investigate this mysterious suicide as three distinct characters.”

Knee deep is an episodic “You decide what happens” mystery game. Based similarly to the TellTell games, you play as 3 characters in turn. Online blogger Romana Teague, journalist Jack Bellet, and has-been detective K.C. Gaddis.

The decisions you make will help you understand just what exactly happened in this sleepy small town. A place which has been rocked by a high profile suicide and you will have to deal with the strange town’s folk populating Cypress Knee.

The real difference that sets this apart from the usual mystery murder solving game is that this is set as a stage performance and you are the director, choosing the dialogue and how the 3 different characters go about the investigation and the news articles they post.

It’s nice to have a different angle, but I’m not sure how well the theatre aspect works, I guess we’ll see how it expands in the future episodes.

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You begin by investigating the suicide and speaking to different people in the town. These people range in personality; from odd the Scientology cult types to inbred hicks that live in the swamp, there’s a few “normal” characters chucked in for good measure too.

The 3 protagonists differ greatly in their behaviour and can be played in any manner you see fit. Firstly, the female blogger, who I decided was to be quite sarcastic and uncaring. The news journalist Bellet, seeking more truth in the bigger picture of what’s happening in the town and Gaddis trying to claw back something from a declining career which meant returning to Cypress Knee.

As for the mechanics of the actual game, you don’t control where you move around in a directional sense, you pick your choice of response that can control where you look next or whom you speak to.

You also have to update you blog or send in news articles based on the clues and information you gain from speaking to the occupants of Cypress Knee you come across. You can also put a spin on the article you post. You can be cautious, edgy or inflammatory. Your various posts and how you spin seem to affect your relationship between your editor and employer, this being episode 1 I haven’t seen this in play just yet.

The story that unfolds before you gathers at quite a pace and throughout my 2 hour initial play through it got pretty interesting, pretty quickly. The main story seems relatively straight forward and a bit cliché, but it’s the twist and investigating what’s happening in the bigger picture which is what captured my attention and I want to return to Cypress Knee.

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There are no wrong answers or places to fail, which is great because there is nothing worse than repeating dialogue scenes when you screw up (Think L.A. Noire, parts of that used to drive me mad!). You get to interact the 3 characters together in some instances as well as the other inhabitants, being no wrong answers means you don’t replay sections, but it does affect the relationship you have with them. At one point my character (Gaddis I think) gets punched in the mouth thanks to one of my responses.

Some issues with the game I will point out are the graphics and the animation aren’t great, but Knee Deep obviously isn’t touted as an AAA title that will max out your GPU.

Some voice acting wouldn’t go amiss either, as the whole game revolves around dialogue and different emotional scenes I think some voice acting could really lend towards setting the emotion in said scenes and could distract from the low quality graphics.

Response from the audience would add more to the setting of being in a theatre too, the only reminder you have is at the start and changing of the scenes when you travel to a new part of town.

There’s also no real way to tell how you’re progressing. The reports you send in get little feedback and with the lack of ability to “fail” it’s hard to gauge how much of an affect your reporting is actually having, apart from pissing off some of the locals every now and again.

The issues thankfully though don’t detract from me wanting to play the game or come back for episode 2.

I’m invested and want to see what happens which is exactly what I want from an episodic game and I will be revisiting for the next instalment.

So far, Knee Deeps is telling a good story and has done enough to keep me interested. If you prefer your games to have story and substance over graphics and enjoy the TellTell style games then this is for you. It’s well timed and the suspense keeps you thinking and guessing.

The charming straight to DVD style writing, dialogue, story and characters will see you through episode 1 and wanting to come back for episode 2.

 

Positives:

  • Interesting set up in the theatre
  • The murder mystery story is good and very involving
  • Cynical responses!

Negatives:

  • Graphics and animation isn’t great, faces are expressionless.
  • Lack of voice acting is noticeable

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