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Knack PS4 Review

About.com Rating 3 Star Rating

By

Knack

Knack

Image © SCEA
There is so much I want to love about “Knack,” one of the first games released for the Sony PlayStation 4, and yet the game fights complete enjoyment at every turn. I adore a great platformer (look at my review of “Rayman Legends”) and I think it’s a great idea to start this new generation with an old-fashioned game. Sadly, “Knack” ends up a minor, enjoyable diversion with a few great ideas and neat visuals but little more to recommend. We’ll have waves of PS4 coverage here at About.com including upcoming coverage of “Killzone: Shadow Fall,” “Need For Speed: Rivals,” “Angry Birds: Star Wars,” “NBA 2K14,” and whether or not you should upgrade your PS3 versions of “Battlefield 4,” “Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag,” and “Call of Duty: Ghosts.” With all of those titles competing for your entertainment dollar with your new PS4, “Knack” feels even more like a missed opportunity. It has a few clever concepts but ultimately proves that this generation will be susceptible to the same development flaws and gameplay frustrations as the last one.

Game Details

  • 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.

Gameplay

Knack

Knack

Image © SCEA

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.

Graphics & Sound

Voice work is strong throughout and the graphics are deceptively simple to the degree that older gamers are likely to scoff at this being a next-gen title. However, there’s a lot more going on here than people might think, especially in the design of Knack himself and the detail in the environments. Both of the first Sony games really show off the machine’s ability with some of the toughest elements of graphics – rain, grass, and other elements of mother nature. “Knack” looks good. You won’t use it to show off your machine (that would be “Black Flag” and “Battlefield 4”) but it looks good.

Overall

Knack

Knack

Image © SCEA
There are only a handful of family games available for the PlayStation 4 this holiday season, making it a machine that might not be that appealing to parents looking for something that the whole family can embrace. Everyone with a mobile phone as probably played “Angry Birds: Star Wars” by now and so may be hesitant to upgrade to an expensive version for their TV and a lot of people may have played “LEGO Marvel Super Heroes” already on their PS3, which makes “Knack” the only option. It could be worse given the track record of family games in the PS3 era but one hopes it soon gets better.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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