Failure Who?

Failure way through Ice-Pick Lodge’s newest game and have the squee scared out of you! Wheee!


KIBBITY KIP KIP KIDDOO, MOTHER SNIFFERS. People be askin’ me, “Hay Beel, what’s Knock-knock like? IS IT SCAWWY?”

Naw man, not really. I sorta lied up there, kinda. Not compared to the screaming dread in Pathologic or the surreal headfuck of The Void. That’s not to say it’s as goofzarro as Cargo. There are some nice audio creeps and a couple cartoon-scary beasties, but Amnesia it ain’t.


No. But like all Ice-Pick Lodge games, Knock-knock is a madness simulator, and once again IPL succeeds at this handily.

I have said many times that IPL is better at making art games than any of the goobers who self-profess to make art games. Here’s why:

  1. They don’t even once ever call them art games. Because once a developer does that, they are in essence saying “Yeah we got a decent composer for the soundtrack, settled on some passable art assets and completely fucking ran out of game play concepts after deciding on WASD for the control scheme. Ten bucks on Steam, bitches.”

  2. They don’t forget the “game” part of “art game.” Pretty much everyone else does. Well, fuck that. I play games to play games, art, FPS, RPG, strategy. Ha ha, OK you got me, I never play strategy games. I tried computer checkers once and three turns in I flipped my keyboard so hard it blue shifted. I live in the now, baby.

  3. Everyone who works at Ice-Pick Lodge is insane. Better yet, they’re all Russian too. I mean come on, being Russian and insane is like squaring infinity and dicing it up with various imaginary numbers and serving it as a zesty chutney. Tale of Tales is essentially a happily married couple who probably develop games as foreplay. That’s adorable and all, but when I want art games I want some goddamned suffering from my developers. Ice-Pick literally locked themselves in an abandoned mental hospital when they made THE VOID, THAT’S MAH SHIT BOYEEEEeee

  4. Their games do what they want their games to do. You go play ToT’s The Graveyard or Beintot l’ete’ du frommage or whatever and I am sure they think these games take you on a metaphysical journey where self and other are conjoined in a mystical swirl of ah fuck it I can’t even write this tripe. Instead you just blink a few times, sigh quietly, and wonder why you paid for this bullshit and you haven’t even gotten 50% completion in Saint’s Row 4 or GTA V or Pokemon µ or Manshoots 3: The Killening. Pathologic freaks you out with the specter of imminent death, The Void fucks your mind in a vaguely unpleasant yet soothing fashion, Cargo is a creative five year old’s fever dream and Knock-knock simulates the final days of insomnia before you completely break and begin arguing with a flushing toilet and setting your shoes on fire.


There are other reasons but I’m tired of talking about other, lesser developers. I came here to sodomize small animals and talk about Knock-knock, and well heh heh hehhhhh

Many people when reviewing or otherwise commenting on Knock-knock like to mention how “polished” the game is, how it is IPL’s most polished game. So much polish! Look at all the polish! I can’t believe this polish! Don’t you people know never to bring up the Polish around Russiahhhhhh never mind

Anyway, that’s just internet buzzsperg for “Hey I actually finished one of their games! Neat!” I can dig that. Nobody sane finished Pathologic. Anyone who says they finished The Void is a filthy liar. The game hypnotizes players into thinking they’ve finished, when really they haven’t even passed the first level err area errr reality cloud err ah fuck it. Cargo was short but honestly it wasn’t that great of a game and more an asshole commentary on wasting one’s time playing games. Come on IPL, we have the rest of the art gaming community to handle that for us. Polish!


WELL BIG FUCKING LACEY PANTIES DEAL. Perthonally I think The Void had the most Endust on it. It was all lubed up with Murphy’s Oil and shit. It was the disgusting mutated tongue from those dudes in 300 licking the Oracle’s face of my gaming lust. It was gorgeous and weird and had brain-melting game mechanics disconnected from anything resembling familiar aside from quasi-survival adventure game moments, obtuse resource management, and boobies. It was hard as BALLS, too. Knock-knock is kind of adorable and ultimately it’s IPL flipping you off while ripping off its Boogums mask and taunting you with “Hah! Was platform game all along, [whatever the opposite of] tovarisch [is]!”

The little bush guy is SO ADORABLE

The little bush guy is SO ADORABLE

Y’see, IPL UNLIKE SOME FUCKING (F)ART GAME DEVELOPERS I DASSN’T MENTION OK I LIED TALE OF TALES, really do enjoy making games and thinking about game conventions and concepts, and subverting them. Or punching you in the figurative dick with them.

Like most game developers, and this may shock you but literally ask any game developer, IPL hates saving in games. YOU DON’T GET TO SAVE IN REAL LIFE, YOU DAISY-TWADDLERS, etc. Thusly IPL has explored a variety of game play concepts to subvert the alleged baby crutches with training wheels saves represent. In Pathologic, the game was so jumblefuck and chaotic that you were constantly saving and reloading until you lost all sense of where the hell you were even at the in the game beyond a vague notion. In The Void you could only save in places where time passed (quickly), which could easily fuck you right out of the game if you didn’t handle it properly.


In Knock-knock, the game does save your progress upon quitting but there’s no reloading except to start the entire game over. Honestly I don’t really think it needs more than that. The game is designed – or at least, generously allows for – failure. More on failure later!


The actual plot of Knock-knock is arguably more obtuse than any other IPL game, although the theme is likely the easiest to understand, ironically. OH GOD LAVERNE HE ACTUALLY SAID IRONIC. The game is essentially an exploration into the frazzled mind of an insomniac, seemingly doomed to awake abruptly in the middle of the night and wander his ever-changing house, jumping at shadows and trying to piece together the events that brought him to this fate.


OK NOT REALLY. That’s the boring half-assed philistine box cover synopsis, which anyone remotely familiar with IPL games knows is a big quivering pile of LAMPREY SHAVINGS. The game is really about you dreaming about an insomniac who might actually be you. Think aboot it, eh. You aren’t there but he talks to you. You can’t understand his words but you still understand him. He has your crippling OCD, agoraphobia, and repugnant personal hygiene. He wanders his own home but there are always curious new rooms connected to familiar ones. Raise your flipper if you haven’t had a dream like that, and yes zero flippers I’m counting, don’t even, don’t even.

Also, he’s trying to possibly find a girl, who is simultaneously endearing and creepy as fuck-all, who might just be a hideous monster. COME ON I CAN’T BE THE ONLY ONE WHO DATED THAT GIRL, WAS I? You lie.






OK, so, IPL sez learning the rules of Knock-knock is part of the game so ha ha fuck you yanqui blue jeans. Screw that, me buckos, me hardies. There’s not much to know anyway.

  1. The jibba jabba talk of the main character is somewhat oddly endearing FOR ABOUT FIVE PICOSECONDS, then it’s just an unholy mating of Boomhauer from King of the Hill and Q*Bert. So rule #1 is HIT THE GODDAMNED SPACE BAR TO HURRY HIS DIALOGUE THE FUCK UP. Read the subtitles though because a lot of it is actually interesting.

  2. IT’S AN ICE-PICK GAME. LOSING IS MANDATORY, EXPECTED, AND ACCOUNTED FOR. Man nothing says fun like knowing precisely AS IN TO THE HUNDREDTH OF AN ANGSTROM what you’re supposed to do in a game and being glued to the floor by your pubes by Elmer’s Shitty Random Game Mechanics. However, unlike previous IPL games, Knock-Knock picks you up, dusts you off, gives an Attaboy Slugger chin-knuckle and gives you another, typically easier, try.

  3. Really the entire game is about not getting captured by D’AWWW SO CUTE WAIT I MEANT OOOH SCARRRRRY ghoooosts, fixing light bulbs, warping time and playing tag in the forest OH DID I MENTION THE FUCKING FOREST. EVERY GAME HAS A FOREST NOW, IT’S PART OF THE NEW WORLD ORDER. TILA TEQUILA KNOWS.


The bulk of the game is split between two general types of houses, represented on the game progress map as a house or an eyeball. A stick figure represents your progress. If you fuck up, you have to replay that house and the stick figure spins around the house or eyeball like the universe’s ugliest moon.

Touch these weird mannequin clocks to speed up time

Touch these weird mannequin clocks to speed up time

Houses are easy. You wake up and after a few seconds a mannequin clock appears in one of the rooms and you just sashay the fuck on over and activate it. Then the front door blows open and despite other cheesy antics like booming door knocks and whatever, you can usually just exit into the forest. THE GRIM DARK FOREST


The forest is mildly tedious but not as bad as some forests in adventure games I won’t mention THE PATH. Mostly you just wander around like a dipshit and try to accost a ghostly girl. Your reward for doing so is an utterly incomprehensible cut scene, which comes as no surprise if you’ve ever played an IPL game. Also you have to avoid ABSOLUTELY ADORABLE I MEAN SCARRRRYYYY beasties that just stand there picking their noses and eating it, so it’s not like there are twitch skills involved. Just don’t stay out too long or you will have to replay that level.


Eyeballs are the trickier bits and the meat of the game. The goal is to avoid getting attacked by a ghost and make it to dawn. You get a house that changes in its layout every level. You turn on lights in each room with the occasion to pause for a few seconds so that a clock, hiding place, plot point or diary note in a funky scrawl appears (you can tell this will happen if your character’s eyes close). THE D’NEALIAN, IT BURNS US.  The game babbles something at you about not turning on the lights but it’s fucking lying. If you don’t turn on the lights, you can’t move quickly through a room – which you’ll need to do. When a light shorts out in a room and the camera zooms over to center on it, within a matter of seconds a ghost will appear or a rift will open in the wall, typically represented by a giant eyeball no I don’t understand it either. The arrival of a ghost is heralded by a booming titular double knock. The ghosts also speak in exceedingly creepy male and female voices, sometimes both. DO NOT JUMP INTO THE GIANT RIFT EYEBALL. It goes to an extremely boring endless hallway that does something bad I think. Try to fix the light to ward off the ghost and close the rift. Having fun so far? Cool. Do that a few times every Eyeball House and win cash and valuable prizes. Or something.


Now the thing here is, ghosts appear randomly in rooms and doors are locked randomly (I theeenk) and sometimes unlocked doors lock and so you know, expect to die due to random chance a lot and not because you did something wrong. Just start over and it’ll be a bit easier. Probably. Try to light up rooms on a few floors because ghosts stick to the same floor they spawn on and sometimes you can get lucky and hide in a basement room. As a side note I do find it amusing that Ice-Pick decided the ghosts weren’t scary enough and attempted to remedy this by chopping all their heads off.


There’s a hiding mechanic which blows big brown Russian bear baby arms. Don’t even bother. I have no idea how it works and all it does is make time tick backwards and forestall getting glommed by a ghost so whatever the fuck, Scooby-Doo. Just cheat and run up and down ladders like everyone else does.


Winning the game requires a couple of things as far as I can tell. Glom the forest ghost girl to gain incomprehensible cut scenes so that when you get near the end of the game, the giant monster waving to and fro in the night sky turns into a giant, not-appreciably-less-scary girl waving in the night sky. Then finish the game before the timer that suddenly appears runs out. It’s a long white lightning bolt or scratch or whatever across the top of the screen. Don’t fuck about and you’ll make it. You either die or…not die, I have no goddamned clue what the “good” ending was about at all. YAY ICE-PICK!

This game is not hard. SO CUTE THOUGH. It’s just a little heavy in parts, if you catch my drift. It’s weird, awkward, and more than a little off-putting and indeed legitimately creepy hither and yon but it never goes tits-deep into full-bodied yikes, horror! like prior IPL efforts. You have to give the game and Ice-Pick props for making this game literally because some absolute weirdo mailed them a few letters and bottles of Stolichnaya with the game deets. And they actually made the game. Who does that! Honestly!


HELL YES I FUNDED THE KICKSTARTER. Tossed these hombres a cool hundo. A crisp C-note. A jaunty chumknuckle. Why not, I seriously underpaid for Pathologic and The Void by my reckoning. AH RECKON. Stop talking like a cowboy Bill, it’s creeping me out. As a result, I AM IN THE GAME MANUAL, AND THE GAME SORT OF, AND HONESTLY THAT IS BY FAR THE SCARIEST PART. Cheggit:



My symbol is an hourglass. NO THAT’S NOT WEIRD, HA HA, THAT DOESN’T FREAK ME OUT AND KEEP ME UP NIGHTS. Nope. Nyet. Albondigas. The final bit for upper tier KSers is one last (safe) forest walk where you can fondle a tree and your name appears:


Wheeeee anyway, blah blah blah, schlemiel, schlemizel. Knock-knock is a fun, odd little game and you may not exactly enjoy playing it per se, technically, cough, but it’s a great primer for Ice-Pick Lodge’s warped brand of game design, which I personally love, but you may not, but it’s worth  a go, why not, the arch demon Ashtaroth said when I summoned him through bloodsugardiabetesmagic that as long as I keep typing this sentence he won’t annihilate my soulllllllllllalalalaloolooleelee