Knack Review

By Shawn Collier on December 11, 2013

The PlayStation brand has been known for its share of platformers, with one of the most well-known being the original Crash Bandicoot helmed by Mark Cerny. When it was announced he would be working with Sony Japan Studio on an all-new platformer for the PS4, it's an understatement that people were excited. So does Knack reach the level of excitement that makes it a worthy contender for your launch game buying dollar? Unfortunately, probably not.

Knack takes place in a world where ancient powerful relics are readily available. A man named "Doctor" comes across one special one in particular, which he uses to eventually create a weaponized being named "Knack" as a way to fight against the evil Goblins. Knack's powers revolve around the ability to attract and attach other relics around it to grow in size from a small creature into a massive one that can crush buildings and knock aircrafts down to the ground. In parallel, though, this mechanic also affects Knack, as receiving damage causing him to progressively lose pieces.

Similar to earlier PlayStation platformers like Crash Bandicoot, Knack is an action-platformer that focuses on exploration and fighting with a single-button press mechanic taking center stage. Knack can't block attacks, but he can evade them by using the right analog stick or single/double-jump. These mechanics can be combined, such as having Knack do an aerial diving attack following a jump. One issue with the dodge move, however, is that there's a slight delay after performing a dodge which the enemy AI often tends to take advantage of. The enemies also have access to this same move, so often times you'll end up whiffing when you thought you landed a well-timed move.

After collecting specific items known as sunstones, Knack can gain the ability to use one of three special moves. One pounds the ground for an AoE attack, another lets him fire off auto-aiming projectiles and the last one lets him swing the relic pieces that make up his body in a whirlwind-type fashion.

There is a sense of exploration in Knack, but for the most part it's isolated to corridor-like segments, which consists of closed-off areas where you need to fully defeat waves of enemies to progress. This becomes stagnant after a while as the only variation to these areas comes in their size and the powers that are available to the player. But even then the enemies scale based on Knack's size, so the waves are basically the same as before. There's a number of hidden rooms and objects to find, but even this doesn't break up the action that much in the long run.

There is a glimpse at creativity with the ability to draw in items to alter Knack's abilities, but the game never really utilizes this to its fullest extent. For instance, Knack can light himself on fire when he's made of wood to set enemies on fire or destroy objects, but it's usually used because the next area needs a smaller Knack and it helps it shrink. There's a couple of other combinations like this in the game, such as when Knack's made of ice or scrap metal, but neither is utilized any better.

Surprisingly, the difficulty in Knack isn't as easy as one would initially imagine. Even on the easiest difficulty there's a bit of a challenge involved as the goblins will still evade your attacks, but not enough to frustrate newcomers. It's good that this type of game offers such a challenge, it's just a shame that the mechanics don't necessarily support it.

Graphically Knack is definitely a next-gen title but there's still some launch issues present in the final product. Knack itself is basically a walking next-gen special effects showcase, with the individual pieces that make up its body, the backdrops and characters looking quite lovely in motion. There's some jaggies and roughness when up close shots are taken and this does detract from the experience somewhat, but it's to expected.

Final Thoughts

Knack is a great parallel of a new console launch. Even if some of them are flawed to a degree, it has some interesting and new ideas and shows promise for what's coming in the future. If Sony decides to make a sequel there's a lot of room for expansion here, but while it is playable in its current state, there are quite a few flaws. It's not a system seller by any stretch of the imagination, but Cerny's new platformer still offers a decent experience overall.

Reminiscent of Mark Cerny's platformer development roots
A graphical showcase as far as Knack's particle effects go
Easy mode isn't brain-dead easy for once
Gameplay mechanics allow enemies to evade too easily causing frustration for the player
Some graphical issues in close-up scenes
Gameplay gets repetitive after a while during long gameplay stretches
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