Forget what you already might have heard about Knack. Whether you heard it was good, bad or somewhere in between, you probably haven’t seen the whole picture. Looks can be deceiving and with SCE Japan’s PlayStation 4 launch title that has never been truer.
I personally wrote this game off as the kids game that every console launch needs. Just by looking at trailers and gameplay I thought it would be a little entertaining but ultimately not something I would enjoy as much as other games. A friend of mine however did pick it up along with a few other games and has been preoccupied by those so I thought I would take the opportunity to try Knack out and what I found surprised me.
Human cities are under attack by goblins which seems to be nothing new to the people of this universe. The humans have guns, cannons and much more advanced weaponry than the goblins’ bows and arrows. That is until a goblin attack on a heavily fortified human outpost reveals that the goblins have gone from sticks and stones to tanks and guns almost overnight. In response to the attack top ranking human officials have a meeting at Doctor Vargas to set up an expedition to try to learn how the goblins have progressed so fast and where they are getting their weapons from.
Billionaire industrialist Viktor and his sister Katrina volunteer for the expedition along with world famous explorer Ryder. However, just before everything for the expedition is finalized Doctor Vargas wants to show everyone the latest thing he’s been working on. The thing that the good doctor has been working on is Knack. Doctor Vargas and his assistant Lucas have been working with relics of a long lost civilization for years and have finally found a way to bind them together and give them consciousness. After Knack proves to Viktor he’s not “to delicate” to join the expedition it is agreed that Knack will accompany Doctor Vargas and Ryder on their mission.
Knack has a gameplay style that feels like a mix between Crash Bandicoot and God Of War. You’ll be moving along a set path destroying any enemies that are in your way before you can progress to the next area. Along the way you’ll find more relics to gain health while also making Knack bigger and sunstones which will give Knack energy for super attacks. This type of linear gameplay doesn’t help Knack feel like a next generation game but as I soon found out it wasn’t meant to. The beauty in Knack’s gameplay is the difficulty that comes from each of the different enemies.
Knack has two basic attacks which are punching and a sort of jumping kick attack. Along with those Knack also has a few super moves like throwing parts of his body at enemies or turning into a tornado of relics depending on how much sunstone energy Knack has acquired. For the most part though punching and jump attacks will be used heavily. Now combine Knacks limited number of attacks with the huge number of different enemies and enemy attacks and you end up with a rather challenging game especially considering sometimes all it takes is one hit to make Knack crumble.
An interesting mechanic of Knack is how he can grow to gigantic sizes or shrink down to a tiny version of himself. As Knack grows bigger and bigger he becomes stronger allowing him to decimate normal enemies in his path and giving him a fighting chance against the bigger enemies you’ll encounter. Knack can even grow using some interesting things like ice or wood which lead to situations where time becomes a factor.
Throughout the game you’ll watch a lot of cut scenes which look like they could have been pulled right out of a Pixar movie. Everything from the characters to the world around them look exactly like I would imagine a Pixar movie of this game would look like. So much so that while I was watching the intro to Knack someone stopped by and thought I was watching some Pixar movie they’d never seen. They were dumbfounded by the fact that it was a game and not a movie.
Knack offers a lot in the form of replayability. Throughout the game there are a bunch of hidden rooms containing pieces to machines you can build that give you some other slight advantages. One of the machines will allow you to locate hidden rooms while another will collect relics from fallen enemies if you health is low just for starters.
There are also different crystals to collect. There are 6 different types of crystals and collecting enough of each will unlock a new version of Knack. For example collecting 15 ruby crystals will unlock Vampire Knack who is stronger then regular Knack(and a lot more red) but he is also constantly falling apart little by little. These crystals are found in the same secret rooms as the machine parts but since what is in each room is randomized you never know what your going to get. That’s where your friends come into play. Whenever someone on your friends list finds the same hidden room as you there’s an option to take what you found or take what your friend found instead.
After completing the game you’ll unlock a chapter select section allowing you to go back and replay any level you want and an arena mode. The Arena mode has you fighting wave after wave of enemies and gets tough rather quick so be prepared.
One thing I was a little bothered by were the checkpoints. There were a few times where I was playing and had to go back through a few different sections to get back to where I died. It never took more then 5 minutes to get back to where I was but eventually having to do it 9 or 10 times took its toll on me. Checkpoints are crucial in a game like this and having them occasionally misplaced can be the difference between a fun challenging game and an annoyingly challenging game. Luckily it wasn’t something that happened often so its not that big of a problem just more of a nuisance.
Another thing I had a problem with were the Puzzles, if you can call them that. The puzzles in knack basically amount to there are 3 switch’s in this room, hit each of them an a door to the next area opens. For a game with such interesting mechanics like growing and shrinking I would thing they could have found a way to make the puzzles more challenging or at the least more varied.
In the end what Knack does right is outweighs its mistakes but just barely. Knack’s great storyline is full of sub-plots that keep the story interesting until the very end. Knacks combat is it’s main draw though. While it is very simplistic its also very challenging especially on the harder difficulties. Even though Knacks checkpoints and puzzles aren’t always on point I still found myself playing this game for hours at a time and enjoying it more then I ever expected I would.