Saturday, April 5, 2008

knytt stories

It looks to be another dreary weekend here in Saratoga, and while I am thrilled that Battlestar Galactica is back on the telly, I think that both Aili and I have had enough of the soul-crushing upstate NY extended winter. If you've also got the pre-spring blues, here's something that might help.

Knytt Stories is a free game designed by an artist named Nifflas. It's a little hard to describe - I mean, fundamentally it's a barebones platform game, where you side-scroll through a diverse set of environments on a short quest. But such a description demeans the psychological experience of playing. Can I use the word "zen"? No? Alright - it's very very soothing. The combination of elegant aesthetics and an atmospheric soundtrack make this a perfect game for a Saturday or Sunday morning.

Your quest has something to do with a dystopian machine that is corrupting the environment of your world. While it remains relatively abstract throughout, I experienced a palpable sense of happiness and pride when I completed the adventure. It felt therapeutic, almost.

I'll warn you that while the control scheme initially appears simple, it does accrue some important complexity as the game progresses. At first, all you'll be able to do is move left and right (using the arrow keys) and jump (using S). But as you wander through the world, you'll discover "power-ups" that grant new abilities: like an umbrella that lets you float at a more leisurely pace if you jump off a high cliff. Learning how to utilize your new movement skills to get past certain parts of the game forms the fundamental puzzle aspect of Knytt Stories. Combat and fighting are (nearly) non-existent.

Here's what you need to do to play. Go to Nifflas' Games website and click on Knytt Stories. Download the latest version (1.1.0 r2) and then open the exe.file that will install it on your computer. You will then be able to start up the game by clicking on a "Knytt Stories.exe" icon. I strongly suggest going through the brief tutorial so that you can see what each of the power-ups does for you.

Exploring the world of Knytt is well worth your time. Even if you don't buy the whole zen thing.

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