Review: A Knight in the Attic
A Knight in the Attic is a new puzzle VR game on Meta Quest 1 & 2. You find a puzzle board as you explore your grandmother’s attic. While the game provides a bit of a guide in the form of a journal, most of the learning comes from trying new tools and applying them to solve a puzzle. Most of the gameplay is intuitive, but a few moments tripped me up in my play-through.
Story: There are actually two parallel stories going on in this game. The first deals with you exploring your grandmother's attic and finding a puzzle tucked away in the back of the attic. There’s also a journal with drawings, giving clues on how to apply tools to certain areas to solve the puzzles. The illustrations also include a child dressed as a pilot, interacting with the puzzles, or daydreaming about flying. You get the sense that this is probably your grandmother. As you progress through the puzzles, more pages open up in the journal, telling more of the child’s story.
The other story is that of Guinevere, the puzzle-piece protagonist in the board game you find. As you progress through the game, it becomes apparent that King Arthur is missing, and Lancelot is trying to find him. When Lancelot first sees Guinevere, he asks where she’s been, to which she responds that she was in a spirit world, but that’s all she knows. As you continue through the levels, you unlock more of the story, explaining what has happened to Camelot and the fate of King Arthur.
What’s fascinating about A Knight in the Attic is that you can approach it as just a puzzle game and avoid a lot of the story, or you can explore and get clues to what’s going on; I got engrossed with the story of Guinevere, and her story made me think about how it’s connected to your grandmother.
The board is similar to a wooden labyrinth, where you need to navigate a ball around the maze, tilting it so that it moves around the board as you try to avoid it falling into holes. In fact, the first puzzle you complete is a wooden labyrinth so that you make the connection between something familiar to you and how the game works.
After you complete the labyrinth, the first level becomes available to you. A shelf stores each level, with the next level locked until you have collected the required number of bees to unlock it. As you explore the maze, you’ll come across bees hidden throughout. You’ll use a jar on top of the shelf to capture the bees you find. You’ll also use bees to unlock doors found within the level. This is the first time (and certainly wasn’t the last) that the game doesn’t spell out exactly what you need to do, but you understand how the game works through trying new things.
You’ll also find scrolls throughout the game, which tell more of the background of what’s going on in the story of King Arthur. While you must find all the bees in a level to progress forward, the scrolls are optional.
Moving Guinevere around the board by tilting it can be tricky, as there are some areas that you’ll need to be extra careful rolling around; otherwise, you’ll fall into water or lava and have to start at the last checkpoint you crossed. Thank goodness for checkpoints and there are plenty of them, which will ease your frustration if you keep struggling with a certain area. The game does allow you to adjust some of the tilt mechanics, like making Guinevere roll slower. You can also adjust how you’d prefer to hold the board. The initial setting is that you need to hold the trigger buttons to hold onto the board. That can make your hands tire rather quickly, but you can adjust it so that just clicking it will hold the board; clicking again will release your grip. I found it easier to move Guinevere with the analog sticks, it may not be how the developers intended, but it made navigating the board much easier.
Unlocking new levels also unlocks new tools you’ll need to solve puzzles. There are some neat applications with some of these. For example, there’s a hand crank that will lower or raise platforms, a windmill used to power your sailboat, a pitcher of water used to raise the water levels or douse lava, and a hammer used to raise or lower different areas. The journal depicts how to use the tools. One of the aspects I love about A Knight in the Attic is that they show how to use a tool, but you’ll need to apply it differently in future puzzles. For example, with the water, you’re first shown in the journal how it can raise the water level. Then, in a much later level, you’ll use the pitcher on lava to cool it, to create a path for Guienevere to transverse. The game didn’t explain that to me, but through trial and error, I figured that out.
All of the puzzles are simple, but if you are playing with the tilt mechanics, trying to solve the puzzle while keeping Guinevere from rolling away can be tricky. It’s up to you if you want that type of challenge, though, as you can play the game how you’d like.
Final Grade: B+
A Knight in the Attic is an interesting twist on the labyrinth puzzle. While the titling mechanics add a challenge, you can adjust some of the physics in the game and use the analog sticks to move Guinevere around the maze. The narrative kept my attention, while you can play the game without focusing on the story, but you’d miss out on the game's charm. So for those of you looking for a puzzle game with an intriguing story, this is a game for you