Review: Knack

Finding a game these days that is both accessible to older gamers, while being something that a parent could feel safe buying for their children, is difficult, especially on a brand-new platform. This is where Sony's family friendly PS4 launch game, Knack, comes into play. But does this title have enough to both be an enjoyable game for gamers of all ages, or does it try to be too many things at once?

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The premise of Knack revolves around a world that falls into war, as an ancient race of Goblins suddenly begin attacking settlements, leaving humans to fend for themselves. During a meeting of the top minds, a decision is made to have the two best chances at survival work together to stop the attacks and figure out why they happened. One of them is a doctor who has discovered a way to bind a mysterious element and create a magical creature called Knack. The other, a scientist who is focused on using the technology to build a series of robots, but also has an diabolical interest in Knack.

Written by the mind behind the PS4 hardware, Mark Cerny, a great deal of attention has been brought to Knack's character model, but sadly the story fails to feel like anything more than an empty Saturday morning cartoon that is destined to be canceled. As it also pins itself as a family friendly title, Knack doesn't need to have much depth for it to succeed, but even then, it doesn't contain much more than a few twists that are easily predicable. It doesn't help that the story lacks a sense of direction.

Taking itself through a number of plot changes, there would be hope that the cast could drive the story on their own merits, but the title character and his crew are flat and uninteresting. Each of the main characters are touched upon with a bit of a backstory, but only the main doctor is given any real screen time or plot. Even then it's mundane.

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Knack is a character that should be given much more focus, as he is the titular character, but he is simply a protagonist pieced together to fight for the human race with no driving motive. As a playable character that is able to change his size by collecting relics on each level, making enemies easier to kill the bigger he gets, there should be a constant feeling of advancement, but it is actually the opposite. Each level uses most, if not all, of the relics that you find to power generators, making the primary dynamic of the game a highly controlled and ultimately sterile experience.

The only sense of advancement within Knack is the ability to collect parts that provide bonuses, but short of an unlockable time-attack mode, it is the only thing adding any long-term value to the game. By the end of your first run through, it is possible to have a handful of gadgets that increase damage or the ability to locate secret rooms. But it will take the majority of the game to collect enough parts to build something, as parts are randomly generated. Thankfully, when you find a hidden chest, you have the option of picking up an item that one of your friends has found instead of what was originally contained.

Playing through the game, there is a simple and repetitive concept that will become engraved in your brain after a few hours. Knack is only able to attack, jump, dash, or use a super power once he has collected crystals in the game world. That's all there is to it. Enemies are usually some variation of ranged, area-of-effect, or melee variant, and are grouped in annoying combinations of those archetypes. Fighting an area-of-effect opponent who stands next to a guy with a rapid fire gun when you can do little more than punch is an annoying premise, especially when you have to do it many times throughout the 10 hour journey.

One of the ways that Knack tries to work its way into being accessible to gamers of all types is by changing up the experience drastically between its easy, normal, and hard modes. Depending on what kind of experience you are looking for, easy is designed for first time or younger gamers, where as normal and hard are there for those who enjoy nail-biting challenge. Sadly, as the difficulty rises, so does the visibility of its limitations, as you have to pay more attention to the finite details of each level. Even though the check point system is generous at times, some of the later tasks tend to be tedious and punishing with a camera that can work at one moment and fail in another.

The biggest annoyance that had us wanting to put the controller down was that even on the normal mode, Knack is able to get killed within two or three hits from almost anything, even when evolved into Big Knack. Playing as a giant and lumbering beast, there is almost no sense of being a powerhouse, only a slow Godzilla-sized character that can be dropped like a fly.

Knack is a game that you should go into with low expectations. It uses the PS4's power to give you a pretty world, but its poor game design never takes advantage of it. If it existed in the PlayStation 1 era it would be okay, but as gaming continues to evolve to provide memorable story experiences and entertaining gameplay mechanics, Knack is left in the dust. Although the PS4's launch library is limited we can't recommend this game.

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Dan Oravasaari is a Contributor for CraveOnline. You can follow him on Twitter @Foolsjoker.


Copy provided by publisher. Game is exclusive to PS4.