As you’ve been told a million times already, the PlayStation 4 was recently released and with it came a slew of launch titles. While it is always a great thing to have lots of games to play on your brand new console, launch titles have developed a bit of a reputation. Traditionally, launch titles tend to focus on the capability of the system rather than focusing on the game’s mechanics. With Knack, you see that the PlayStation 4 can do impressive graphical gymnastics, however, the game itself is a bit of a mixed bag. There is definitely a solid foundation for the next great Sony platformer, but there are a few things that just got in the way. However, you can really sense the ambition in the execution of the game and ultimately leaves you feeling like Knack could have been a better game.
From a plot perspective, the game revolves around the war between the humans and the goblins. Knack was created by the humans to fight the goblins and the rest of the game revolves around the doctor that created Knack and his apprentice Lucas. The story is competent and it moves the game along but the plot is ultimately shallow. It feels a lot like a children’s cartoon where you can tell by first glance who is evil and who is good just by their appearance. Then there are a number of moments when the game tries to stretch for some substance, but with the cartoon-like atmosphere fully engaged, it fails to sink its hooks into you. It seems to be a victim of a confused identity, it really isn’t a cartoon and it isn’t a mature graphic novel but rather somewhere in between.
Visually, Knack looks good on the PlayStation 4 hardware, but it fails to really blow the PlayStation 3’s graphics away. The character of Knack is really a show of how the PlayStation 4 can handle objects on the screen since Knack is basically made up of hundreds of things held together with energy. The effect looks great on the system, but that is about all that can be said about impressive graphical features. There is a lot of untapped potential in this department, and it could have been so much more.
Unfortunately, the soundtrack of this game is extremely repetitive and fails to enhance the world of Knack. You get a set of three different tracks that play over the game’s thirteen chapters. This leads to set pieces and soundtracks falling out of sync, taking the player out of the experience. This was particularly lazy and definitely a big mistake seeing as how Knack was one of the true launch titles for the system. Sure, it wouldn’t have looked great if they needed to delay yet another game past the initial launch window, but releasing a seemingly half-finished game isn’t a better solution.
The level design in this game also leaves something to be desired. Most of the levels are quite linear, and though there are lots of collectibles which encourage you to explore, you eventually get right back on the same linear path and finish the level. Having more secret areas, or even having a choice in which way you go, would have gone a long way for this game.
The combat system in Knack is also quite simplistic. You basically button mash your way through the enemies in front of you until they are dead. Knack can destroy sun-stones which power up one of three special moves. These moves dish out a ton of damage and are necessary in a number of locations. Unfortunately, beyond that, there is very little variety or move sets that switch up the combat and make it more engaging for the player. Unfortunately, there is a lot of combat in this game so you’ll have to master this system to have any success at all. To make matters worse, Knack is extremely fragile and often dies in one or two hits no matter how big or small he gets. This makes Knack an extremely challenging game, even if it isn’t intended to be. Fortunately, there are combat sections where Knack can grow to an enormous size and smash his way down a pre-selected path. This provides some of the few satisfying moments that the combat in this game rarely provides.
To be fair, there are a number of collectibles that could be found throughout the game, that make the combat system easier and more diverse. If you do some searching, you can find pieces of gadgets. Once you find all the pieces of a gadget, you can use it to power up Knack. This makes the game a lot easier, but finding the patience to seek these parts out may not be for all players. You will also require a full playthrough just to get all the pieces you need, so getting access to these gadgets doesn’t occur until later in the game.
Knack had very big shoes to fill in the launch window of the PlayStation 4. This was supposed to be the game that had mass appeal and brought families into the sights of the PlayStation 4. Unfortunately, this game seems to have missed the mark. The game feels too difficult for the casual players it is trying to attract yet the combat is too simplistic to attract the players that would enjoy the challenge. This kind of push and pull exists throughout the game’s mechanics and it comes across as unfair to the player. This is a real shame because there are a number of good things that could have been great things just with a simple tweak to the design. Overall, we are left with a game that ultimately fades into the shadows. It fails to stand out and be recognized while all the other launch titles take center stage. It is a shame, Knack really could have left its mark on the community and been something extra special.
This review is based on a review copy of Knack for the PlayStation 4 developed and distributed by Sony Entertainment of America.
- Lots of Potential
- Fun Characters
- Repetitive Soundtrack
- Ease of Death