Svarun Entertainment‘s sci-fi point-and-clicker K’NOSSOS offers an interesting visual style and a few puzzles to solve in its current alpha demo that should make backers decide if they want to join the Kickstarter campaign.
I usually stay away from previews and Kickstarter projects, as I’d like to review games that are finished, but I’ll make an exception with this one after it came as a recommendation from a fellow Adventure-Treff colleague who also supports the Serbian company in promoting their game. The plot revolves around a lone passenger on a colonization ship who is suddenly awakened from his cryo sleep. With the ship apparently being abandoned by its crew and other life forms except for an artificial intelligence, he has to repair it and find out what caused this sudden stop on the outer rims of the galaxy.
The prologue that is playable with the free alpha demo also shows that this man had an idyllic family life and embarked on this journey of his own volition, making the nameless protagonist quite an intriguing personality due to the surrounding mystery behind where he lived and what wonders and dangers await him in the unknown cosmos. Reminiscent of classic adventure games like The Dig and Beneath a Steel Sky, it’s classic sci-fi, but without the humor. A further indication that the developers are fond of the early Revolution Software title is the inclusion of a utility orb that helps the player solving puzzles, e.g. cutting or welding objects. However, it isn’t much of a personality like the talkative robot Joey, which is something of a missed opportunity.
Speaking of puzzles, it’s here where a lot of work has to be done, because to be honest, they’re not much fun. Not even taking into account that it doesn’t make much sense to carry around a large ladder and long chain in the inventory, the logic behind most conundrums is out of this galaxy, so that the hint system is the best bet to find out what one should do. Despite being varied and more complex thanks to the use of the utility orb, they rely more on trial and error. Presenting the player with a code number puzzle right at the start isn’t a good idea, either, as lack of clues make it a frustrating entry point, with the rest of the tasks following suit. To be clear, these conundrums are well-integrated in story progression and the difficulty isn’t that high with few objects in the inventory and only three locations to visit. But not being able to distinguish objects from the background is a major concern that has to be addressed, even if there is a hotspot feature.
Using expressionist graphics is all well and good, and it’s certainly a unique style, but if one can’t make out what the points of interaction are, exploring these areas isn’t a lot of fun. This wasn’t much of a problem in Dead Synchronicity: Tomorrow Comes Today that also used a similar art style, but without too many overlapping textures. It’s really a shame, because K’NOSSOS‘ atmosphere is great with a foreboding soundtrack that is reminiscent of Alien and voice acting that is convincing as well. If only the text passages of unspoken lines wouldn’t disappear so fast…
In a nutshell, the game is certainly promising with its serious sci-fi story, aesthetics and sound design, but needs better puzzles, less confusing background graphics, and give the player more direction so that he won’t be lost in space forever. If you find the free alpha demo to your liking, then why not head over to the Kickstarter page and back it before November 22 when the campaign ends?
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