The facts are these; a once successful actor is found dangling by his neck from a tower next to Chief Roadside’s Wonderland. Suicide appears to be the obvious answer, but could his girlfriend have been involved? Or maybe the sinister religious cult that seems to be conducting their own shady operations in the area. The answer to these questions is what draws our three protagonists to Cypress Knee. A town, elegantly described by one character as a “moldy flea speck on the map, tucked off the I-95 in the swaps between Jacksonville and St. Augustine.” Romana Teague is a blogger eager to prove her worth, while Jack Bellet is a local reporter barely hanging on to his job. Then there is K.C Gaddis, a private investigator with a very cynical outlook on life. All three of them have a job to do in this backwater Florida town and it is up to you to help them.
At first glance Knee Deep looks like a fairly typical point & click adventure, but spend some time with it and it becomes clear that it is more akin to a visual novel. Aside from a couple of mini-games, the majority of your time is spent conversing with the interesting cast of characters that call Cypress Knee their home. Most of them have secrets that they are hiding or are involved with shady dealings, but you won’t be juggling inventory items or hunting hotspots for clues to uncover the truth. Instead, the story is shaped through the conversations you have and the way that you interact with people. For example, you may choose to be nice and civil to the person you are questioning or you can be downright belligerent. The characters must also submit stories or reports to their bosses at certain intervals and here you must choose what info to use and how to present it. You could either cautiously state only the facts or put an edgy spin on things for more sensation. You can even opt for the inflammatory approach, but this is certain to make you unpopular with the people you are slandering. We really like the idea, but it remains to be seen just how big an impact what you choose to say or report will have on the overall story.
Knee Deep doesn’t have a fail state, so you cannot really muck things up to the point where the story can’t continue, but picking your options carefully will allow you to make more sense of things. The writing is quite good and giving players the ability to select just how characters with pre-existing relationships know each other is a novel touch. During your first playthrough names are thrown at you thick and fast, so a second playthrough is recommended to really appreciate the writing. Since the game can be completed in about 90 minutes to two hours, we recommend running through the story more than once. The game will have three chapters in total, with the second act coming out during the fourth quarter of 2015 and the final hitting early next year.
Another thing that sets Knee Deep apart from similar titles in the genre is the way that it portrays everything as a very elaborate theater production. Characters wander between different scenes that are set up next to each other or hop on to platforms that transport them to new sets. Building walls drop down to reveal the interiors while stage lights shine down on characters as they make their way between the shadow laden set pieces. It is a very unique approach and while it doesn’t really add much from a story or gameplay perspective it is a nice visual effect. The character models and animations could have done with a bit more polish, but the backdrops look pretty good. Although visually the game is far from cutting-edge it makes up for it with its unique style. The game also manages to expertly convey the gloomy, mysterious atmosphere of its setting and manages to deliver an engrossing experience.
Since you have no control other than dialogue choices the game can feel a bit restrictive to players used to exploring and puzzle solving. Anyone who loves a good story will enjoy the game though, as the dialogue definitely takes center stage. Bear in mind that Knee Deep requires plenty of reading since there is no voice acting in the game. We’ve been spoiled by some very good voice acting in the titles released by Telltale Games and other developers working with the same genre, but it is definitely better to have no voice acting than to spoil the game with poor acting. With dialogue being so important in this title it would have been a disaster if the characters were poorly voiced or sounded unconvincing. It would definitely be nice if the developers could muster the funds to bring in some real talent, but in the meantime we think they made the right choice. Besides the music definitely helps soften the blow as Knee Deep features some very good tunes that add to the atmosphere.
While the game played out a little differently from the standard point & click adventure that we were expecting it was definitely an entertaining experience. The story succeeded in sucking us in and we are eagerly awaiting the second chapter to find out what happens next. Hopefully some of the critical choices we made will have a big impact on the story, but this first chapter definitely sets things up for the drama and intrigue that is sure to follow in future installments. Like we mentioned earlier, it can feel restrictive to players used to typical point & click adventures, but if you approach it like a visual novel you won’t have any problems. Overall, we had a lot of fun with Knee Deep and look forward to stirring up more trouble in chapter two.
- OS: Windows 7
- Processor: i3 or equivalent
- Memory: 2 GB RAM
- Graphics: ATI or NVidia card w/512 MB RAM
- DirectX: Version 9.0c
- Hard Drive: 2 GB available space
- OS: Windows 8
- Processor: i7 or equivalent
- Memory: 4 GB RAM
- Graphics: ATI or NVidia card w/ 1024 MB RAM
- DirectX: Version 10
- Hard Drive: 2 GB available space