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Knee Deep Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . If you've ever wondered what Twin Peaks would be like if it took place in Florida, was loaded with pop culture references and was actually a stage play with a live audience, then Knee Deep is the game for you. It's an odd little point and click adventure game with a large cast of colorful characters and diverging paths. Unfortunately, it never quite comes together and some of the writing had me rolling my eyes. Rating: 57%
Knee Deep
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  • Review Score:

  • C+
So a blogger, old school newspaper reporter and former cop walk into a small Florida town. No, this is not the start of a terrible joke, but rather the set-up for Knee Deep, an episodic murder mystery from Prologue Games. The three-part series originally debuted last summer, but recently wrapped things up with an explosive third act. And while this unusual adventure doesn't nail the landing, it may just be odd enough to warrant a look.

Like a lot of great film noirs, Knee Deep begins with a murder. In this case, the victim is Tag Kern, a washed-up movie actor who appears to have hanged himself from an old water tower. But first impressions can be misleading, and it won't take long to realize that this was no ordinary suicide.

We're introduced to three different investigators, each with their own agendas. There's Romana Teague, a young blogger known for her incendiary wit. She's the first to the scene, and will do just about anything to get a scoop. But time is of the essence, because she's not alone. Old school muckraker Jack Bellet is also on the case, doing whatever he can to keep his newspaper gig in a world increasingly dominated by digital media.

The two reporters are joined by K.C. Gaddis, a former cop who now moonlights as a private investigator. He's been brought into town by the studio to investigate the unexpected suicide, a job he's more than willing to jump at ... as long as he can bring along his dog. The three investigators don't realize it yet, but they are all directly tied to the murder of Tag Kern.

This mystery plays out like a typical point and click adventure game, only without much pointing and clicking. Instead of moving the characters around, we're mostly presented with a series of dialog options and choices that will impact how the story plays out. Much like Until Dawn or Telltale's The Walking Dead, there isn't really a right way to play the game. Even if you make all the worst choices, you'll still experience a compelling story with a few good (albeit expected) twists and turns.

Knee Deep (Steam)Click For the Full Picture Archive

All this takes place in Cypress Knee, a small community about 30 miles outside of Jacksonville, Florida. Actually, that's not entirely true. Knee Deep takes place on a stage in front of a live audience. All of the backgrounds and locations were constructed by stage hands, often allowing for walls to be removed and buildings pushed away to give the audience a better view of the action.

The stage play is by far the most intriguing part of this adventure. It's not just the staging, but also how characters will monologue and events will be played up for the audience. You can hear the crowd audibly gasp when something unexpected happens, something that ends up being a fun gimmick. I enjoyed watching the set changes and the staging of the production. Some of the transitions do look a little goofy, but I really dug what they were going for.

What I didn't like was the writing. While there's a compelling story in Knee Deep, it's often marred by a script that is trying too hard to be witty. Each of the townspeople has a quirk that is unique the first time around, but annoying every subsequent time. For example, Remy starts every conversation in the third person, always talking as if he just finished memorizing Wikipedia. I was also distracted by the completely out-of-place references to Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift. Every pop culture reference felt wholly unnatural in the world they created and took me out of the experience every time. Nothing dates your game more than name-dropping pop stars.

Knee Deep (Steam)Click For the Full Picture Archive

While I found the writing to be wildly inconsistent, it's not entirely the script's fault. The voice cast tries its hardest, but some of them come up way short. Despite being limited to a small area, this game has a surprising amount of speaking roles. As a result, I found that the core players were pretty good, but the supporting cast left a lot to be desired. Some of it is bad in a campy and endearing sort of way, other voices are just grating.

Sadly, the same can be said about the visuals. While some locations look good, the character models are ugly and the animation is stiff. At best, the graphics are serviceable, offering just enough style to not be completely bland. That said, the staging did improve from the first to last episode. There are a few striking moments late in the game's story, something that gives me hope for the young studio's next game.

What the game lacks in presentation, it tries to make up with weird plot twists. As a story, I was fully invested for the first two episodes, excited to know how it would all wrap up. But that final act takes the trio in some unexpected and dumb ways. I was thoroughly disappointed by the late-game reveal, something that comes out of nowhere and feels like it's played off for laughs. This game constantly undercuts the tension with comedy, which would be easier to swallow if it was funnier.

If you've ever wondered what Twin Peaks would be like if it took place in Florida, was loaded with pop culture references and was actually a stage play with a live audience, then Knee Deep is the game for you. It's a hit or miss adventure game that never quite comes together, but at least it's constantly weird and has a unique gimmick.
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