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Video Game Review: KNEE DEEP from Wales Interactive

Knee Deep is a point and click adventure game revolving around a murder mystery. Set in a small backwater town called Cypress Knee in Florida, you control the three main characters as they investigate an actor’s murder, digging deep into a world of political corruption, blackmail, intrigue and even a bit of sci-fi weirdness. The story is accompanied by nice graphics, atmospheric music, and a unique take on gameplay where the story takes place as if it was a theater play, complete with moving sets and all. The game is available on PS4, XBox One, and PC via Steam, which is the version I played for this review.

The game shows the player that everything takes place in a theater. Despite having control over the character’s choices, we’re also in the audience. We’re told that the story takes place in a fictional Florida town named Cypress Knee and that an apparent suicide has taken place. Throughout the story you have control over three different characters: a young and self-important blogger named Romana Teague, a grumpy local reporter by the name of Jack Bellet, and K.C. Gaddis, a cynical private investigator returning home for the case. All three of the characters offer a different perspective of the story at hand and interact with characters differently. While they don’t get along with each other at first, they end up working together to solve the mystery of the actor who committed suicide and find out what’s happening in the town around them.

The story calls itself a “swamp noir” and touches on themes of suicide, murder, political corruption and even cults. Everything starts off simply with the investigation of the suicide of a famous actor but soon it’s obvious more is going on. The story is told in three parts, like acts of a play. I was really into the mystery vibes at first, the two reporters and the private eye trying to solve the case while the cast of characters around them aren’t very helpful. Between the dirty politicians and the cultish church in town, the main characters are actively pushed away from the real story at hand every step of the way. Things go way off the deep end by act three, however. Sci-fi elements are brought in, people are dying left and right and everything is just a mess. I was very disappointed that a story that started off pretty strong developed into a whole lot of incoherent nonsense. While there was resolution and questions got answered, I didn’t like the answers provided. Also, for a game that advertises that “choices matter” in the end, the ending of the game is always the same.

While the choices you make do affect the dialogue and how other characters react to you, overall they don’t have any lasting consequences. You will still find the information you need and everything still ends up the same, even if you’re rude to everyone or the nicest person on Earth. A major example of this was at a certain point of the game you have the option to save yourself or one of three other characters from dying. Either way, one of the three will survive so picking yourself won’t kill them all. But, no matter who you pick they play the exact same role later in the game. Saving character A instead of character B doesn’t change how the game plays or ends, just certain dialogue. While for the most part I did enjoy the story, this gameplay aspect really hurt any desire to replay the game which you have to do if you want to unlock all of the achievements.

Despite my issues with the “choices matter” system, overall the game plays very well. You can play with a mouse or a controller and it even supports VR. You don’t have to move your characters around in the game, they automatically go where they need to so I found just using the mouse to make choices the best option while playing on the PC. While a huge bulk of the gameplay consists of reading and then making dialogue choices for the main characters as well as other side characters from time to time, there are also a few mini games sprinkled in. I found the games to be relatively easy and, for most part, useless to the story and gameplay. It was nice to change things up a bit but the game would not suffer if they weren’t there.

The game has decent graphics, the character models are smooth, and the animation for the most part is rather seamless. I saw some glitches like characters walking in circles for no reason and once, a character who has just died, was still standing on the screen for no reason. I did not run into many of these hiccups very often, however. The game is rather dark for me -literally-  it was important for atmosphere but my eyes aren’t the best so this was an issue for me. While it didn’t affect gameplay at all or the story, it did make me squint more than I would have liked. The game has full voice-acting which is very well done and a great soundtrack that is also available for purchase. The actors helped bring the well-written script to life and handled all of the quirky lines wonderfully. Even if the story faltered at some points, the acting never did.

While for the most part I did enjoy playing Knee Deep, I feel it’s a game that people will generally enjoy or not with very little room to meet in-between. The stylistic choice of setting everything like a play in a theater may turn people off or fill them with intrigue. The sheer volume of choices you have to make do create for an interesting game, even if they don’t change the ending, because there are a lot of humorous moments in the game. While it’s advertised as an adventure game, I would honestly say it has a lot more in common with a visual novel as mostly everything is text-based and the main purpose of the game is to tell a story. I played the PC version on Steam, which has trading cards and a lot of achievements to obtain, but you will have to play the game at least twice and the first chapter a whole three times to gain them all. I do recommend adding this title to your library, though I might suggest waiting for a sale.

Knee Deep Season Ticket is provided via Steam key for Linux, Mac, and Windows and is also provided DRM-free for Linux, Mac, and Windows. For key redemption, a free Steam account is required.

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: cheeky blogger Romana Teague, down-and-out local reporter Jack Bellet, and cynical private investigator K.C. Gaddis.

Experience a magical reality where characters are transported among scenes, set pieces moved into place, and music wafts from the orchestra pit. Knee Deep is about characters, storytelling, and the melodrama of swampland Florida.

Features

  • Uncover a swampland conspiracy—Use your skills of observation, deduction, and cleverness to pull back the curtain and reveal the true story behind this backwater community.
  • Dynamic storytelling spotlights choice and consequence—Engage in realistic conversations that evolve based on your choices, but beware as critical decisions could lead to a breakthrough…or someone getting hurt.
  • Gaming goes to the theater—Vivid voice acting, imaginative set transitions, and melodrama specifically designed for the digital stage
  • A swamp noir adventure in three acts—enjoy the entire season with all three acts available now!

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