When the Playstation 4 was revealed most people were expecting a next-gen hardcore powerhouse to be the first game shown to the awaiting fans, but what was actually shown was Knack: a fun, bright platformer that looked child friendly and had been created by Mark Cerny, the mind behind a lot of the classic 3D platformers like Crash Bandicoot, Ratchet & Clank and Jak & Daxter. I had thoroughly enjoyed these games back in the day so I was curious to see how Knack would turn out. Unfortunately I donâ€™t see Knack joining the list of classics I have mentioned.
In the game Knack is a creation of a Doctor and made up from ancient relics from a lost civilization. These relics are the powersource of the world and are mined by humans and goblins who are currently at war with each other. Over the course of the story Knack, the Doctor and his young assistant, together with the assistant’s adventuring Uncle, try to stop the war between the humans and goblins and unlock an ancient vault containing a vast amount of large relics. Whist on this adventure, you are also racing to beat Viktor – the games evil billionaire industrialist – to the vault and stop him using the large relics for evil.
The mechanics of the game are simple, which is not a bad thing but they don’t get any more complicated than the ones introduced in the first few levels. You are going through narrow levels that will sometimes open up in to larger battle arenas, attacking enemies with the same three hit combo, occasionally using one of the three power moves you acquire, all whilst using the dodge mechanic to avoid incoming attacks and projectiles.
When the game was first shown, the big mechanic touted was the ability for Knack to grow in size using these relics. This looked like it would lend to some varied gameplay with Knack being able to be any size at any time depending on the amount of relics you had collected. This is not the case, Knack’s size is not as dynamic as first thought. When going through the levels you will find relics around the world that will change your size and appearance slightly, but nothing on a grand scale. You are the size needed for any particular level and your size doesnâ€™t evolve the gameplay in any way. Enemies you fought earlier become easier but are just replaced with larger enemies who give you the same amount of trouble as before, and once you have worked out their attack patterns you find yourself using the same basic attacks to defeat them. Later on in the game Knack is able to bind with other materials such as wood, ice and metal to gain in size; unfortunately these offer nothing interesting and just extend your life bar and allow you to solve some very basic puzzles.
Knack is a surprisingly difficult game at times though. When in combat, Knack can only take a couple of hits before exploding into pieces. This is made frustrating by the poor and inconsistent checkpointing in the game. You regularly need to wade through various encounters with multiple enemies that increase in difficulty before hitting a cutscene that will trigger the checkpoint. Die on the last area and you have to go through and redo them all again.
The game also has a large amount of collectibles that can be found in hidden chests throughout the levels. These collectibles are random and are either gems that, once collected, can upgrade Knack, or parts of technology that when found help to find relics and other such things. One unique thing about these hidden chests is that if someone on your friends list also found that chest you can choose to have what they found rather than the random item it is offering you – a pretty neat touch.
Some of the visuals in the game look pretty good too. Seeing the Knack character made up of so many small parts is impressive and the other characters, enemies and environmental textures are bright, colourful and sharp. Unfortunately I wasn’t a big fan of the art design. The game has all the typical levels expected in a platformer including forest, ice, lava and industrial scenarios. All it needed was a minecart level to get the full house. And impressive as the Knack character looked, I felt the rest of the cast design was rather bland and dull in comparison.
To sum up this game is visually impressive but lacks imagination giving the player the same old level designs that has been around since platformers have been around. Although the game looks child friendly donâ€™t be fooled by this, as the game can be frustratingly hard due to Knack’s fragility and the game’s poor checkpointing system. Â Knack fills the platformer hole that was needed for the PS4 launch, but the story is dull too which can make for a disappointing gameplay.
Reviewed on PS4