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All The World's A Stage: Knee Deep

deja vu

If you caught a glimpse of the screenshot at the top of this post, you’d be forgiven for thinking that some news about Kentucky Route Zero Act IV has surfaced. I love Route Zero so I’m happy to see games following in its theatrical, magical realist footsteps, but Knee Deep’s [official site] stringy-legged chap and gas station look a little too familiar. Not so the rest of the game, however, which concerns three characters investigating the “mysterious suicide” of a washed-up actor.

It’s an adventure game framed as a stage play.

Perhaps Prologue Games are intentionally quoting Kentucky Route Zero with that image. The theatrical framing device suggests they’ll be playing with ideas about set dressing and that could happily lead into experimentation with repetition and reference. But that single image doesn’t seem to be a good representation of the game itself. Kentucky Route Zero’s characters are inseparable from the timeless environments they ghost through, while Knee Deep’s models look like they’ve dropped in from the mid-nineties.

This next picture doesn’t bring Kentucky Route Zero to mind in the way the header image does.

Still, I’m interested in the staging effect.

Experience a magical reality where characters are transported among scenes, set pieces moved into place, and music wafts from the orchestra pit.

I like the idea of props being recycled, used to perform functions specific to a particular scene. That’s sort of how adventure games work anyway and there’s room for all kinds of meta-noodling. I like meta-noodling.

The three protagonists are “cheeky blogger Romana Teague, beleaguered local newspaper reporter Jack Bellet, and cynical private investigator K.C. Gaddis”. I’m considering changing my twitter profile to “cheeky blogger”.

Because it’s a modern adventure game, Knee Deep will be released episodically and will force you to make critical decisions that have an impact on the story. The first episode (of three) is due sometime this summer. The game was at Rezzed but I wasn’t so I haven’t played it – did anyone pop along to the booth? You can pretend you were watching over someone’s shoulder while they played by having a friend sit in your chair while you watch the video below. Have strangers jostle you occasionally and, for the complete experience, sporadically notice Mike Bithell on the other side of the room.

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Adam Smith

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