Rated E for Everyone by ESRB. Knack is probably the closest thing to a Crash Bandicoot launch title PS4 fans are going to get. It’s a charming and fun platformer/beat-em-up game, that follows Knack, a being made from relics of a forgotten past. When the cities of the humans are under attack from the ever-growing Orc threat, a human doctor presents Knack to them, and tells them that he will be an invaluable asset in taking down the Orcs. Knack is able to get larger in size, and more powerful as well when he absorbs relics scattered throughout the games levels. As he gets bigger in size, his health bar increases as well. Knack’s voice also gets deeper as well, and his facial structure changes too. Knack proves himself to be a great and powerful ally, but an even greater evil looms over the orcs that Knack and the humans will have to prepare themselves for!
Knack takes place in a cartoony version of what we assume to be Earth. There’s humans, and Orcs, who are evil and barbaric creatures who now suddenly have acquired tanks and guns. The styling of the characters reminds me slightly of how the humans in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs look, but slightly more realistic. Regardless, the styling is very pretty look at, but isn’t as beautiful as say Killzone. It’s just a very fun and simple styling. Knack looks like he’s almost made of woods and metals, and always has a blue-ish metal orb at his center, which acts as his heart, and holds all his pieces together. Knack looks like a kids game, but actually quite charming for all ages, and can be pretty challenging for adults as well. It’s a very basic and streamlined game, giving you a fairly strict path to follow, but there are some hidden areas with health and unlockables if players are to find them. You don’t play Knack to feel like you’re in a next gen game, you play Knack for its charm, fun, and fantastic styling.
While Knack’s graphics are very nice to look at, they don’t feel entirely next-gen. They’re not impressive, but they get the job done just fine. Again, everything has a bit of cartoon-ish styling, so nothing has too much extreme detail, but environments, characters, and everything looks very soft and clean. The thing that’s impressive to me graphically is the effects and bits and pieces on Knack himself. When he gets hit or damaged, bits and pieces of him fly off, and stay off until he finds more bits and pieces to collect as health. As Knack gets bigger, there are more and more artifacts that he becomes composed of. It was impressive to see the PS4 handling all these little artifacts individually, and show Knack deteriorate as he accumulates damage too. Knack is very fun and enjoyable, but doesn’t boast the graphical prowess of games like Killzone.
The main human characters in Knack receive well done voice acting work, and fit each of their respective personalities very well. They all fit the charming cartoon atmosphere very well too, and each character’s voice is well distinguished. Whenever Knack acquire more relics to add to his form, you’ll hear the sound of wood blocks getting stacked together come out of the speaker in your controller. Then when Knack takes a hit, you’ll hear the sound effect of wood blocks getting knocked over. Using the controller speaker for to indicate when Knack is gaining health and when he is losing health helps to make the player more aware of when damage is being taken. It’s a good touch though, even if it was a bit surprising at first.
Knack features a fairly lengthy single player campaign that is playable across multiple difficulties for added replay value. Throughout Knack you’ll venture through caves, goblin villages, cities, mansions, and many more creative and fun landscapes. Each area usually gives the player a new group of enemies to fight as well, and new gameplay mechanics are introduced as you progress through the campaign to keep things interesting. Knack’s levels are very straight, and don’t offer any side paths. There are hidden coves where you can find components to build inventions that can help power up knacks skills, or help him find more hidden treasures. Each invention has about 6 or 8 pieces, and you can only find one item per treasure chest. However, if your friends on PSN have played Knack and have opened the chest you have, it will show you what they found, and gives you the option to choose either the item you found, or one of the items your friends have found. Knack itself plays like a third person platformer / adventure game. You’ll be jumping across platforms, climbing up walls, and fighting tons of enemies along the way, and some creative bosses as well. Knack is equipped with basic punches for attacks, and then can do a jump dive attack as well that’s slightly less powerful. He can also dodge attacks by shifting the pieces his body is composed of by simply moving the right stick in the direction you choose. Knack’s story revolves around Knack, the professor, and his assistant, trying to figure out where the goblins are acquiring these tanks from, and why more creatures like Knack don’t exist today. It’s a fun and enjoyable story line, which keeps the player pressing on for answers. Knack offers some diversity as he increases in size for certain portions of the game, which makes players switch up their gameplay styles. For example, when Knack stars out in his simplest form, players will be taking many precautionary measure to make sure Knack doesn’t get hit, but when he’s the size of buildings, you simply go through the level smashing all enemies in sight, having a much more fun and carefree time. It does offer a slight twist on gameplay, and keeps things fresh as well. Knack’s checkpoint system can be a bit unforgiving though. If you’re playing the game and die a good 10 minutes into a level, chances are you’ll have to start back at the beginning of the level. Let’s say you got about 30 minutes in to a level and need to leave your PS4, so you shut it off, chance are that you’ll have to start that level from the very beginning again. It’s moments like these that turn me off from Knack, and make playing it seem somewhat like a chore.
Knack is a very simple and enjoyable game, that has a good heart. It wants to take gamers back to the simpler days of platforming adventure games, and show them that they’re still relevant. Unfortunately, due to Knack’s somewhat simple gameplay mechanics, and lacking checkpoint system, it doesn’t do the best job it could have. Knack feels like it was a tad bit rushed, and had it perhaps not been a launch title, could have shined a bit more than it currently does. Knack is an enjoyable game, but it just needs a few tweaks here and there. I did enjoy my time spent playing the campaign, and found the online item feature to be very useful. You can also unlock more items in game by playing the Knack mobile game, which links up to your PS3 game file. Knack has a good heart though; it proves itself to be a fun, interesting, and charming next generation launch title. I’d recommend this game to fans of platforming adventure games, but probably not at full price.
Written by Flair Li