In the realm of story based games, Telltale has held the lions share of the market. Thankfully, with the rise of Steam, more and more independent small-scale projects have been able to come along and deliver totally different experiences. Games like Kentucky Route Zero and To The Moon have been largely successful projects without a ton of funding. Knee Deep attempts to deliver a wholly new kind of story experience with its first episode, “Wonderland.”
The small, run down town of Cypress Knee has disappeared from public consiousness but following the apparent suicide of washed up actor Tag Kern, the world’s spotlight is now on it. Three individuals become mixed up in a mess of racism, religious fanaticism and greed, all while trying to unravel the web of mystery around Tag’s death. Romana Teague is a young blogger who needs as much coverage of this story in order to keep her job. Jack Bellet is a stuggling local reporter who is involved in a custody fight for is child and K.C. Gaddis is an out of his luck detective, who gets hired by Tag’s movie studio to ensure the insurance claims go through.
The three cross paths on only a couple of occasions and, honestly, with Act One, it is for the best. Each character is given room to have a backstory develop and the player doesn’t get too flooded by their interactions. They each feel like they have their own personalities, as well. Similar to many other adventure games, each character will interact with another NPC and be given a dialog option. There are several story critical moments which will further develop your character and give a bit of a different backstory.
The main draw, though, is how the game deals with moral decisions. Rather than having you choose to be the savior or kick a puppy down the road, players are given three different options on how they want to report their side of the story. Romana has the most interesting, and most numerous, decisions to make. Every so often you need to post a blog based off of any number of different pieces of evidence you get. As she is an entertainment blogger you can literally have her report the most extreme narrative possible. For instance, you can imply say that the reason that Tag committed suicide was due to his inability to perform in bed. These moments with Romana are easily the most interesting, especially since you can play the character as the worst kind of paparazzi imaginable.
While K.C. and Jack also have these kinds of moments, they are somewhat more subdued. K.C. has to give reports on what pieces of information are relevant. But he can fudge the facts a bit in order to get some more pay from the studio. Jack has to report on any relevant news that comes up. You can either play to what your editor wants or you can seek out a deeper truth. While not as jarring as Romana’s options, they act well for the characters.
The world of Knee Deep feels incredibly similar to Twin Peaks. Each character has their own weird personality quirks and watching them interact is a major part of playing the game. There are moments of somewhat grim humor, especially watching K.C. having to interact with some of the heavily racist characters in Cypress Knee. It is sometimes grim but carries with it an odd sort of charm.
Behind all of these different aspects, the game paints itself as being a videogame version of a play. The whole affair plays out on a huge theater stage that rotates to show different angles of the area. It’s a neat conceit that lets it hide the fact that graphically it isn’t the greatest looking game. Even without the best graphics, Knee Deep is still able to tell an interesting story with a really great style.
At this point in the review, it is important to note that Knee Deep had a dramatic price drop within the past few days. While it was initially priced at $30, it seems that Prologue Games took the hint from a number of people and dropped the price to $9.99 for the entire season. This price drop actually makes the game significantly easier to recommend to others, as the first episode only lasts around 2 hours.
Knee Deep looks very promising and with its recent price drop, it makes it an easy recommendation for anyone looking to play a game that is fairly different from others. The ability to create a scumbag of a protagonist seems like it could go in some interesting directions. That said, it’s not the prettiest game but that is more than made up for by having an interesting storyline developing. Plus, it’s nice to see Prologue Games listening to consumers and reacting accordingly with the price drop.
SCORE: 8.0 out of 10
A code for the Season Ticket of Knee Deep was provided to Pixel Related for this review.