Knack Review

KnackKnack (Available exclusively on PlayStation 4)
ESRB Rating: E10+
Number of Players: 1 to 2
Genre: Action Platformer
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: SCE Japan Studio
Release Date: November 15th, 2013

Parent Talk: Knack is rated E10+ for everyone over ten.  It features fantasy violence and is extremely similar to the likes of Ratchet & Clank in that some robotic enemies have projectile weapons, and you beat up enemies as you make your way to the next checkpoint.  It’s one of the more kid-friendly titles available on the PlayStation 4 at the moment, so be sure to check it out if you have young ones around the house.

Plays Like: Knack plays something like the early 3D action platformers on the original PlayStation.  Players progress from one linear area to the next, taking on countless enemies along the way.  It’s a surprisingly fun game in short bursts, but becomes extremely repetitive over extended sessions.

Review Basis: Finished the game on the Normal difficulty setting.

Knack won’t win any awards for originality, nor will it be anyone’s Game of the Year, but if you play it for short periods of time it can be surprisingly fun and addictive.  Don’t let its cute exterior fool you either, Knack is tough as nails, and I think that has a lot to do with why I kept coming back to it, because I wanted to progress just a bit further.  Overall some more variety in the combat system would have gone a long way in making Knack far more interesting in the long term.

The Great:

Knack looks like a next-gen videogame.  The sheer level of polish applied to every facet of the game is indeed impressive.  From the silky smooth animation to the wonderfully detailed environments and the superb particle effects and textures, Knack really screams next-gen.  When Knack breaks apart into hundreds of thousands of relics, which are tiny objects he can fuse together to increase his body size, it’s impressive how they all come to life when they’re joined together to form his awesome looking body.  I also really enjoyed the way some of the environments seemed to come to life with imaginative enemy designs, and simple but highly effective level design.

Knack5The Good:

+ Really fun in short bursts.  I can’t stress this enough, if you plan to play for up to an hour, Knack might surprise you by how much fun it can be.  You move from one area of a stage to the next taking on countless enemies.  Rinse and repeat and you’ve got Knack all figured out.  It’s super simple, so don’t expect anything outside that in terms of gameplay.

+ As you progress you start to absorb relics which increase Knack’s overall size.  Enemies that used to take three hits can now be decimated in one.  The larger Knack grows, the more empowered you feel.

+ Lengthy and challenging.  There are thirteen chapters in the game, and for the most part there’s a two or three-hit kill system in place, and that’s on the Normal difficulty setting.  That can make the game extremely difficult and frustrating, depending on your skill level.  I found that it forced me to time my attacks just right, and it was highly rewarding when I downed a gigantic boss that was kicking my butt only a moment earlier.

+ There’s also an interesting friend system in place which connects in with the hidden items scattered all over the place.  If you pay attention as you make your way through each level, you’ll typically see a crumbling wall, smash it open and you’ll find a treasure chest containing a secret item which corresponds to a unique item set.  There’s a crystal set, a gadget sets, and so on.  Collect the entire set and unlock whatever passive ability is mentioned in the description.  These abilities can be extended life, an extra sunstone gauge, and more.  What’s cool is that if your friends have already played the game, you can see which items they’ve collected and swap your item for theirs, making it easier to complete a set quicker.  If you don’t have friends playing the game though, be prepared to wait until around chapter nine before you finish your first set unless you’re insanely lucky.

+ Local co-op is always a blast, and there’s no difference here.  It works just as you’d imagine it would, with a second player taking on the role of robo-Knack, who respawns after dying.  This makes the game far easier, and as such is well worth playing through.  It’s just such a shame there wasn’t online co-op as that likely would have increased the score by a whole point or more.

Knack4The So-So:

+/- The narrative is mostly forgettable.  Goblins were forced from their homes generations ago by the evil nasty humans.  Now they’ve regrouped and are powerful enough to finally regain control of their lost lands.  You’d assume you take on the role of a goblin chieftain or something, but instead you play as a sentient being known as Knack.  He was created by a human doctor, and is used as a weapon to fight back the Goblins.  It never gets any deeper than that, and during the whole game I was left always saying to myself “they could have done so much more with this”.  Typically you don’t expect a game like this to have a deep storyline, but the set-up seemed to promise more than it delivered.

+/- There are five core moves to use against your foes, three of which are directly tied to the sunstone system.  By smashing sunstones (yellow crystal-like objects) you fill up a special meter which you can then use for three special attacks.  One fires a projectile, one causes a tornado, and another a shock wave.  You also have two regular attacks, one is a jump attack which causes Knack to transform his body into a ball and launch himself at an unsuspecting foe, and the other is a basic punch attack.  Sadly these moves can’t be used in combination with one another.  The special moves are gone in a flash and the jump attack pushes you away from your attacker, meaning you spend just about all your time using the basic punch attack over and over again.

+/- While it’s great being able to grow to the size of a building, it’s unfortunate that eventually enemies catch up to Knack, and gameplay reverts back to the exact same simplistic combat as when Knack was in his tiny form.  Ultimately you’re left saying, yeah that looks cool, but what’s the point?

+/- The developers tried to spice things up a bit by allowing Knack to absorb other elements besides just relics in order to grow, such as ice, crystal, and wood.  The gameplay also tries new things like having Knack use crystals he absorbs to enter stealth mode for a short period of time in order to bypass laser, but these twists only last for a very short period of time before reverting back to the norm.

Knack2The Bad:

– Often the jump attack move will miss because the distance between Knack and his enemies have to be very precise, or Knack will hit the ground and pause for a second, leaving him wide open to counterattack.  Given the move is half the strength of the basic punch attack, I found myself using it less and less as the game progressed and enemies became stronger.

The Ugly:

As you might have guessed by now, Knack can be incredibly repetitive.  Fighting enemies with the same five moves over and over again will eventually grate on your nerves.  The lack of any exploration, or puzzle solving also makes the levels all feel just a little too similar, even though they might look drastically different.

Knack1The Lowdown:

Knack is one of those weird games that sounds worse than it actually is.  If you don’t play for extended periods of time, or play through it with a buddy, it can be really fun to play.  If you’re forcing yourself to play for five hours straight for some reason, expect to get tired of the repetitive action very quickly.  This is one case where I’d say you try the game out instead of just reading the reviews, looking at the scores and saying forget it.  You might just be surprised.

Final Score: 7/10

3 thoughts on “Knack Review”

  1. lol, what the hell happened there? haha

    Meant to say “Nice and fair review as always” :)

    Good job!

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