it’s been almost two years since nifflas (shown here in a diaper i peer-pressured him into wearing) released knytt stories, a tool for creating and distributing run-jump-and-climb adventures in the style of his earlier knytt. the adventure included with knytt stories, “the machine,” closes with the line “many more stories are yet to be written.” and sure enough, over the course of those two years, many stories were.
knytt stories is a simple level editor with very little scripting involved; many of the people who use it have little to no prior design experience. as such, many of those stories have the qualities of outsider art that i find so intriguing. another consequence: many of them are plagued by common design mistakes and are unreasonably difficult. because the community of people who make and play knytt stories is so small, most stories are designed simply to challenge other creators’ mechanical knowledge of the game, making them mostly useless to anyone not already deeply invested in knytt stories.
which is why i think there’s value in having a list of those knytt stories that are worth playing: a recommended reading list. i was piecing one together on the gamer’s quarter forum, where much of the below text is from, but that forum grew inactive when it became clear we weren’t publishing any new issues. that’s one of the reasons i’ve moved the list here: the other is that nifflas’s forums were wiped a few months ago, and many of the old links no longer work. some of these stories were left without homes, so i reuploaded them to the knytt level archive. the links below are (almost) all direct downloads.
it’s also a good time to do it: the editor has just been updated to allow creators to script their own game objects, though at present the scripting is limited to animation. nevertheless, this is the type of change creates a distinct “before” and “after,” and we’re at a good point of vantage to assess the “before.” the limited scripting and lack of custom animation forced authors to design in creative and subtle ways, and many earlier stories are all the more interesting because of that.
the following are the knytt stories i think have strong or interesting enough ideas to be worth experiencing. they’re by no means the only good ones, but i think they’re the ones of most worth to players who aren’t otherwise interested in knytt stories (the stories that are most technically interesting are among the least playable). nifflas’s own stories are naturally recommended, but for the purposes of this list i’m more interested in player stories. my own stories can be found in my portfolio, to the right.
rain is a simple story, told well. it makes a good first knytt story.
flipping out, to complement rain, is a single simple idea, well-executed.
the lava caverns is a fairly plain but thorough introduction to all of the player abilities in knytt stories, and manages to fit a lot of design into a small space.
a walk at night is a small, perfect exercise in tone, a meditation on the beauty hidden in quiet, lonely moments. it’s also a fine implementation of an urban landscape in knytt stories, which tends to prefer pastoral settings.
it waits is a minimal and effective lovecraftian horror. maybe the first level to make effective use of the player’s default speed, using the protagonist’s slow, steady walk to pace a creeping descent into nightmare.
station 07 is a well-planned, brooding level that extrapolates on knytt’s obvious inspiration from metroid while repurposing some of knytt stories’s natural elements toward conveying a decaying artificial environment.
temple of the sun. if station 07 can be said to explore knytt’s debt to metroid, temple of the sun shows how much the game owes ico.
three square, four square, logic and reason. dukit builds entirely around a simple tileset included with the game, but you can see a consistant personal design vocabulary emerge throughout the series (which should be played in order).
above and below the waterfall. most knytt stories are hard by accident: this one is hard by design. that means checkpoints before and after every challenge and a commitment to fair design. it’s also very pretty, with lots of incidental scenery.
monochromatica grotta has a breakneck pace that is rare in knytt stories. most knytt stories hazards are puzzles or require lots of luck to slip through; monochromatica grotta is genuinely about moving fast.
the phantom apparatus is slow-paced, but has a marvelous sense of space, with new paths continuously unravelling in the thick knot of the game’s subterranean environment. sometimes frustrating, but often inventive.
falling has a marvelous rhythm – you’ll see what i mean. and yes, it’s the fact that you can move that makes it work, that makes knytt stories the ideal medium for transmission.
a walk to the market contains a dead serious maze and places where you will need to take notes, but is worthwhile if you can afford the investment. it reminds me of myst, but has a good sense of place despite the contrivance such a comparison suggests.
don’t eat the mushroom is best experienced without any prior explanation.