GAME NAME: Knack
DEVELOPER(S): SCE Japan Studio
GENRE(S): Action, Adventure, Platformer
RELEASE DATE(S): December 13th, 2013
The PS4 has finally launched and one of its launch titles is the platformer from the mind that brought us Crash Bandicoot and Ratchet & Clank. I am, of course, talking about Mark Cerny and his title called Knack. But does the game match its predecessors, or does it not quite sing the knick knack paddy whack tune?
Knack is an action adventure styled platformer, similar to that of Crash Bandicoot, but it does have a much ‘lighter’ feel to it in terms of level design, story and gameplay mechanics. That’s not always a bad thing, but it does keep it rather simple.
Knack takes place in a world where relics lie free in the cities, where goblins and humans are at war and where creation is at the forefront of said war. One man, The Doctor, creates our hero, Knack, from a precious orb he found together with some of the relics. And Knack is going to aid the humans against the goblin attacks in order to stop them. It’s here where we are introduced to our protagonist and find out a little about him.
Knack is a walking, talking being with the ability to alter his shape. The orb at his centre attracts the relics and connects them making up his body. By doing so, Knack can grow to different sizes depending on the amount of relics you can find, and in turn, he can power up quite considerably. The relics also serve as a healing power of sorts, so finding the relics is important throughout the game.
Many sections of the game will have Knack at a different size, sometimes he will tower above the enemies and sometimes you will have to attack while being a heck of a lot smaller than your opponents. It means that you have to approach enemies slightly differently and, at times, with far more caution, but it isn’t something that really changes much of the game.
They are, however, important because Knack is quite a difficult game in a way. You will probably find that you will die a lot in the game, even against the simpler opponents. This difficulty, however, is counteracted by the fact that once you die, you return to a nearby spot, usually with your health restored. It may seem a bit silly, but it does work well enough to keep a balance between annoyingly difficult and stupidly easy.
Knack is essentially a platformer, but it is of the very basic variety. Platforming mostly takes the place of jumping up to new areas, across areas, or occasionally drifting over fans to get to a new area. It really doesn’t get much more difficult then that, and there are no puzzles to speak of at all.
The combat isn’t much more complex either. Attacks are made with a single button making use of the same combo throughout the game with a few punches. Knack can also jump, double jump, and attack from a jump which adds a bit of variety. Lastly, Knack can also absorb sunstones which result in a special power of which there are three options. Once you have enough power from the sunstones, you can use a projectile attack, you can use an area attack by which Knack smashes the ground or you can use a whirlwind attack. All these attacks are very strong, and they’re usually quite helpful in situations. Thankfully, it’s quite tough to gather enough sunstones which means you never feel really overpowered.
The combat, honestly, does not get any more complicated than that, and it’s fitting then that there is no need for more complex combat. In Knack, there are many different enemies, some that explode or others that attack, some are robots that have different attacks and there are goblins which all attack differently. So there is, indeed, a good variety of enemies, however, they are all easy to figure out and none of them vary their actual attacks. So if you encounter a robot that has a sword, you know he will jump at you to attack, followed by a melee combo, after which you can hit him.
In fact, every single enemy you encounter has a very particular pattern which it will attack in, and once you know the pattern, then it really is all about timing your attacks. Knack can’t block, but he can dash to dodge if needed, and balancing that between attacks will see you through eventually.
Boss battles in Knack are well designed and are great fun but, again, mostly follow patterns that are relatively easy to figure out. It means that the simplicity remains throughout the game, which actually makes it fun to play, but it’s understandable if many lose interest before the end.
In terms of length, Knack is not an overly long game, probably an ideal time for what it offers, and then it does also offer some replayability as you can look for special relics and crystals to unlock new gadgets and powers. There is also some extra content when you complete the game, such as the time attack mode and some challenges. They are fun additions but not likely to keep you busy for too long.
Knack is a rather ordinary game in many aspects, but what does stand out is how good it looks. The animation is nothing short of excellent, and while it might not match the amazing levels of something like Killzone, it does show off a little bit of what the PS4 hardware can do. The music and voice acting compliment the look and it all feels well polished from start to end.
While Knack’s changing size feels underutilised, it’s still fun punching your way through the endless enemies and finding a few story twists along the way. At times, Knack can even absorb wood, steel and glass for particular challenges that need overcoming. It’s just a pity that these were used so minimally and were always forced rather than something that could become part of Knack’s arsenal.
Knack is, at worst, a fun platformer. It at no point pretends to be anything more than that. It has a charming story with some interesting, if underdeveloped, characters. If you feel the need for a platformer and you’re okay with a bit of repetition, then you may not want to pass over on Knack, it could very easily appeal to you as it did to me. It’s plain fun, and sometimes that’s enough.