- Publisher: SCEA
- Developer: Sony
- ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)
- Genre: Action Platformer
- Pros: Strong Visuals, Clever Gameplay
- Cons: Thin Storytelling, Awful Checkpoints, Depressing Repetition
Knack is the only thing that stands between us and goblins who drive tanks. Yes, “Knack” is one of those weird games that tries to blend fantasy and sci-fi elements into something that feels designed to appeal to multiple demographics but doesn’t fully satisfy any. Bugs, birds, goblins, and metal machines combine in a story that never really connects in a narrative sense. Knack has to save the day and with your help he will. The storytelling is no deeper than that simple set-up and the lack of consistency in it, including five endings, is likely to lead gamers skip cut scenes because they just don’t care.
The actual gameplay of “Knack” is relatively clever, designed to show off the detail ability of the graphics engine of the PS4. At first glance, “Knack” may look like an upgraded PS2 game given its simple environments, enemy design, and platforming structure. (It sometimes feels like an homage to the “Jak & Daxter” and “Ratchet & Clank” games.) It’s the detail of Knack himself and how he interacts with this world through gameplay that’s impressive. Knack starts three feet tall but he collects relics throughout this world that make him bigger, eventually to the size of a Godzilla-esque creature rampaging through a major metropolis. As he grows, he becomes more powerful, also filling a power meter through collection that can allow Knack to perform special moves like turning into a tornado of relics or shooting powerful waves at enemies. When Knack is in full effect, smashing tanks, hurling them at enemies, dodging villains, and then striking them in slo-mo, “Knack” can be addictively fun.
It’s just that it never lasts. As I mentioned “Knack” keeps fighting itself. Every time the combat/action builds up any steam, it’s broken up by a cut scene. And the checkpoints are absolutely abominable. Like so many platformers “Knack” is a memorization game. Find the pattern, solve the puzzle, beat the enemy. And so it’s also inherently a game in which you will die a lot simply by virtue of not yet knowing the pattern ahead of you. Gamers will be stunned at how far back they’ll often be set after missing one of these patterns. There were times where I was rolling through a level, hit an understandable hiccup (and keep in mind that a lot of enemies can kill you with one or two hits…Knack isn’t exactly sturdy most of the time) and then was flabbergasted to be back at the beginning of the level. “Knack” simply isn’t an interesting enough game to have to replay so much of it as you will the first time through.
It’s also surprisingly thin when one considers that almost the entirety of what you’ll see and do in “Knack,” you’ll see and do in the first hour. You learn Knack’s three powers, get the timing of basic combat and dodging, and then do almost exactly the same thing over 13 levels (and maybe 6-7 hours). It’s a unique world with great gameplay but gamers need their experiences to develop over time and not just repeat themselves.