Solomon's Key for the NES was released in Japan on this day in 1986.

.kkrieger: Chapter 1 (Windows)

.kkrieger: Chapter 1 Windows Title screen

MISSING COVER

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MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.4
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Gargaj (63)
Written on  :  Feb 15, 2009
Rating  :  3.8 Stars3.8 Stars3.8 Stars3.8 Stars3.8 Stars

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Summary

Shadow good, linear bad

The Good

I still remember when I was at Breakpoint 2004 - the event where .kkrieger was released at - and how the Farbrausch guys postered the partyplace full with their ad for something that we suspected to be awesome, and what turned out to be .kkrieger, a tiny claimant to the throne of best lighting in a game at the time, Doom 3 being still four agonizing months away from its release and subsequent discovery of hasty fans who insist on having the light turned on during gunfights.

.kkrieger's main appeal is in it's size: the whole game is crunched inside a 98304 byte executable, no external resources required, no strings attached. While most people scratch their heads, the game goes on and boasts fantastic looking lighting, animated monsters with inverse kinematics, varied weaponry, particle effects, nifty postprocessed visuals, and a chilling ambient soundtrack.

The art is beautiful and (for the most part) consistent - the open rooms feel large and spacious enough, and the corridor decoration gives you the urge to redecorate your own living room with some of the stuff inside, although in hindsight, it does cause a little anachronism with what a three legged bugger crawling across something that you imagined as your new chandelier.

The monsters are competent, crawly monsters attack in swarms and are in general creepy, horned monsters have an evil glow in their eyes which is very effective in making you hesitate for a second before they close in an teeth you, and the large humanoid things with NFL shoulder pads certainly look like they can just take a candelabra and chuck it at you, however, it is disappointing to realize that they won't.

The lighting effects are outstanding - perhaps a bit overly exaggerated - the first shot out of the gun that fires the light-ball is as amazing as it should be. There's a lot of work spent into the lighting aesthetic in general, which truly makes every angle of the game picturesque, a feat few games can accomplish.

The music is haunting, resembling of the early Quake-era, and by and large the game manages to achieve that certain atmosphere it aims for - a notable feat for something this experimental.

The Bad

Sadly there's little more to the game than the spectacle - while it is obvious that the whole objective of the game was to be visually stunning while being shockingly compact, and that it was a hobby project and thus time was short and expensive, it is debatable whether 1) this trade-off was a good idea in terms of making something that ends up as more of a benchmark demo with the ability to stop an animated spider chewing off your health bar and 2) the development would've taken really THAT much more time when the decision would've made to add a sodding crosshair to the middle of the screen.

The first experience a tenured gamer goes through is pretty puzzling: controls are run-on-the-mill to a point, but apart from strange moaning sounds that get muddled up between your own panicked gunfire and the background taikos, and the rapid decrease of the upper left health number, there isn't really a debilitating visceral experience when you're taking damage, and that makes the game partly less immersive and partly more frustrating - although this is largely compensated for by the monsters only coming into your face from the front like lemmings on heroin, and they rarely bear projectile weapons, so the actual combat becomes more of an issue from the ammo standpoint, which, on the other hand, is really well balanced.

Sadly the artificially protracted combat also brings up the most logical, but brutally disturbing point of the game, namely that it's so ridiculously monotone and linear that it makes Guitar Hero feel like a meth-filled jam session for free jazz guitarists - literally, the entire game consists of ten near-identical rooms, each with one entrance, one (and only one) exit, some monsters lined up in a geometrically perfect line in-between, and some widgets on the sides that show off the shadow-casting engine. This also sheds light (ha-ha) on the game's brevity - a heftier speedrun veteran could probably finish the game in less than five minutes in-between two intravenous shots of Jolt. I understand that from a designer's perspective, building simple corridors is easy and implementing obligatory conditional-progression mechanics can be a pain in the assets, but it could've pushed the game out of the techdemo territory - all it would've taken is a jumpy puzzle or some inane fetch-quest and suddenly the game would've been really fun to play. As it stands now, it's just really fun to watch screenshots of.

The artificial size-limitation brings up issues that all boil down to the lack of content: death animations are essentially just a small puff of shiny particles, which look pretty silly when you kill of a dude that's large enough to bow down and eat you; exploration, given the lack of space, becomes more of a "let's find the parts where collision detection breaks"-routine; the sounds become repetitive and annoying, and in general the final exit teleport's ending screen makes you look for the "Please buy the full version" text with the phone number at the bottom.

The Bottom Line

It is no question that .kkrieger, to this day, stands as unique experiment on it's own, when it comes to procedural content creation, a throne it claimed way before Will Wright thought it would be fun to stick three pairs of legs all over a pupated polar bear colored in day-glo teal.

It certainly fails to be a memorable game from an experience perspective (which wasn't the point, but once you create a game, there are expectations to match), but it succeeds as a spectacle and as a proof-of-concept. Being a freeware game, one cannot simply dismiss the importance of such a product.

Download it and try it, just to be able to say that you have tried it, and for the hilarity of shooting a glowing hamburger at something that looks like a goat that went through an unhealthy merge with a drafting compass and Satan in Jeff Goldblum's teleporter.