Knack was a new IP directed by PS4 lead architect Mark Cerny which released at the PS4 launch over 2 years ago so I’m a bit late on this one but I recently played and finished it and found it to be a game I had some things I wanted to write about!
What it’s about…
You play as a Knack, a little fellow made of mysterious ancient relics (and voiced by Halo 5’s Spartan Locke too!) bound together by Dr Vargas. The story starts off as a quest to defeat the rising tide of the goblins led by Gundahar who has been attacking human settlements and interweaves with in fighting involving a rich maniac wannabe whose intention is to use much bigger relics than those used to power Knack to rule the world, basically. Knack is a big relic given a consciousness and can gather many smaller relics to grow bigger and cause more destruction as well as use various elements (like wood and ice) to give him different abilities. He can also collect sun stones which help unleash more powerful attacks.
The character designs are really good, I like the cartoony style which looks nice and they were definitely what stood out for me the most and this also translates quite well into the cut-scenes which look equally stylish and are nice to watch.
As Knack grows in size so does the amount of fun I had playing the game, you can destroy more stuff and the game is a bit more forgiving in taking enemy attacks than some of the one-hit kills you face regularly when you are smaller. I had a good time when I was able to go stomping round knocking out goblins and robots, jumping around platforms and so on. This is really where the game was at its best and should be the foundation should there be any sort of second chance for the franchise.
There are lots of collectible upgrades to get through finding hidden areas, in most chapters these are relatively easy to find as they stand out in the environments and you can find relics, sun stones or chests which allow you to collect parts which you can upgrade Knack with. A nice little feature is when you find these chests you can see what parts your friends got and choose theirs instead if you don’t like what you’ve found which can help you unlock upgrades quicker, upgrades require multiple parts to unlock so having a choice of parts is a nice addition.
Whats not so good?
Playing as little Knack is boring and annoying, he has next to no health and many enemies have cheap one hit kills which are frustrating and don’t really do the game any favours. All the levels start with small Knack then he gets bigger as you progress, I understand why they do it like this in some ways but its by far the least fun part of the game and the repetition makes it even worse.
Checkpoints are pretty poorly spaced out which is frustrating at times, you get a few quite close together and others feel like they are further apart and need a lot more doing things over again which can be annoying. Im not overly fond of repeating reasonably large sections because of an absence of checkpoints, they’re also none in the boss battles which is also annoying.
Speaking of which, boss fights aren’t very regular but are shallow and repetitive when they are there mainly consisting of avoiding overpowered attacks which will wreck your health even as “big” Knack which can be annoying. I don’t mind boss fights but don’t make them annoying if you’re going to do them.
It’s a shallow game, I’m not sure how to describe it really, a brawler platform adventure? Wikipedia calls it a platformer beat-em-up, I guess thats accurate? Attacking enemies is mostly the same all the way through with limited extra moves and you do these same small isolated sections with varying enemies throughout, using the sun stone abilities is quite fun my favourite was the hurricane.
I like the character designs but outside of that the environments feel less cartoony in style than the characters which doesn’t look nearly as good to me and is disappointing when the characters themselves look so good and nice. They don’t look bad but I just felt there seemed almost like two different art styles going on in the game although cut-scenes are more consistent and one of those styles is much more unique and interesting than the other.
There are 13 chapters in the game with multiple parts to each chapter making it a pretty long game, usually this would be great but when you lack a major hook either in combat/gameplay mechanics or even something like eye-candy it becomes a bit of a drag towards the end. Had the game been condensed a bit I think it would have been more favourably looked upon because the things I didn’t like all that much became much more noticeable the further along I got.
How does it run?
It was perfectly fine for most of the game, one of those where I didn’t meet many issues, it’s quite consistent with no tearing and good aliasing which is nice. There was one chapter which had some noticeable frame-rate drops near the end as more enemies were on-screen in larger areas but it wasn’t terrible and was mainly limited to that one chapter, overall it’s not a particularly good-looking game from the environments as I said above but nothing major to complain about.
Knack is a bit of a strange game, it has issues some which are more glaring than others but there is a fun game when Knack has a few upgrades and is in his much larger form, its a shame they didn’t double down on that as well as the cartoony aesthetics given some parts of it look really good. Being overly long is also a bit more of an issue as time goes on because whilst the story actually takes an interesting turn or two the gameplay doesn’t really do the same which starts to get boring after a while.
I would actually be quite interested in seeing a sequel to Knack if they can work on improving it, there’s a lot of space to do that and it could be an interesting IP for Playstation if they gave it another chance.