Being a launch game on any platform is not an easy task. Knack looked to be one of the shining spots for Sony’s PS4 launch. Unlike most of the lineup, it showcased a more lighthearted look and feel akin to Nintendo launching a new Mario with their platform. It also helps that Mark Cerny, the current face of the PS4, was behind its creation. After plodding through the 10-12 hour campaign I can safely say that Knack crumbles under archaic design and tedious progression. There is just not enough charm here to make it worth putting up with.
The story behind Knack is a simple one. A character named Doctor (seriously) discovered Knack in a cave years and years ago as a set of relics. Over time he found a way to harness them and unlock their potential, essentially creating Knack.
Knack can combine relics to take on their properties, as well as making himself grow in size. Much like a Disney Pixar flick, things are pretty transparent. The villain is clearly identified at the outset, and the events leading up to the finale are never hard to decipher. Voice acting is done well, even if I am a little creeped out by Knack’s snarky attitude, and deep voice (even in small form).
While it might not engage, it did deliver enough to keep me paying attention. It helps that the look of the cut scenes remind me of a quality animated movie, and that the voice work is not grating.
Knack has been labeled as a platformer, but it is extremely light in that regard. It is more akin to a combat-focused action game. He has one primary attack and the right stick is used for dodging incoming blows. Combat is relatively shallow and mostly relies on precision and patience. Enemies are able to deal tremendous damage, and one or two hits could easily set me back to the checkpoint.
This was one of my biggest issues with Knack. While I don’t mind old-school difficulty, combining it with shallow game play makes for a long journey. Especially for a game that is well over 10 hours. Knack just never hits its stride and feels like a slog long before the credits roll.
In addition to the standard attack, Knack also has an array of special attacks that use a meter that is filled with crystals collected around the levels. These attacks are devastating, and screen-clearing. There is a ground stomp, a tornado spin and a projectile that can take out enemies ranged enemies. The problem with this system is that those bars fill up extremely slow. I found myself constantly banking the attacks until I hit a wall because they were so hard to come by.
The idea of collecting relics to make Knack larger in size is a cool concept. Sadly the developers have taken away most of the fun by dictating when and where Knack gets to be overpowered. The scale is amazing when I would collect enough relics to simply stomp on enemies, but then to have them taken away due to progression was devastating. It is like the developers wanted to control when I was allowed to have fun. While I understand the design choice, it makes the feature feel less unique and in reality, just constraining.
One of the biggest showcases of the limited design is Knack’s ability to take on elemental relics. For example he can take on wood, which makes him lighter and faster, or he can take on ice crystals, but he melts in the sun. These weaknesses are really the only difference outside of cosmetic changes,again showcasing the disappointingly shallow mechanics.
There are trinkets to collect and upgrades to find, but a lot of them feel rudimentary. There are new versions of Knack as well that can be unlocked to play through levels again in a new fashion, but I never felt the want to return to any of the levels. Co-op is also thrown in, and definitely makes things easier and less frustrating. Sadly there is little else to draw players back into the world, or even want to take it in to begin with.
Being a PS4 launch game, Knack has that clean new console shine. While not exactly a technical marvel, the clean edges and superb frame rate go a long way. I like the design of the characters, and the world can be gorgeous at times. My biggest issue is that this game is full of invisible walls and barriers. The developers have a set path for players, and straying outside of that in hopes of exploration are quickly dissolved.
Knack is a charming romp, but not one I could recommend shelling out full price for. The old-school difficulty combined with tedious combat make for an experience that simply isn’t enjoyable. I can see this title quickly hitting the Instant Game Collection in a month or two, and picking it up then and tossing it down to easy just to enjoy the charming characters and wonderful visuals is how I suggest experiencing Knack.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.