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Opinion: The Problem with Knack, the PS4 Title That's Punching Above Its Weight

Posted by Sammy Barker

Monster problems

After somewhat slipping into irrelevancy throughout much of the PlayStation 3 era, Sony’s own Japan Studio is enjoying something of a renaissance at the minute. The first-party workshop – previously responsible for classics such as Ape Escape and Shadow of the Colossus – is almost unrecognisable under the leadership of Sony Santa Monica founder Allan Becker, and it’s showing in the developer’s impressive output. Not content with the surprisingly solid Monster Hunter-inspired action game Soul Sacrifice, the studio still has drizzly digital download Rain and promising platformer Puppeteer in its immediate pipeline. And that’s not all: the formerly furtive outfit is also hard at work on Orwellian-esque adventure Freedom Wars and next generation launch title Knack. But while the latter is garnering an enormous amount of publicity as a consequence of its place among the PlayStation 4’s lineup, is the outing deserving of the attention or punching above its weight?

Inspired by the classics that defined the PSone era, there’s a romantic premise surging at the centre of Mark Cerny’s mascot revival. Almost analogous to the traditional ideals that paved the way for its parent platform, the imminent exclusive feels like a return to the Japanese giant’s roots. But while the developer-friendly principles behind the manufacturer’s inaugural system have failed to fall out of favour, it’s hard to say the same about the humble old-school platformer. And having recently had some hands-on time with the Crash Bandicoot-influenced excursion, we’re not convinced that it deserves to be leading the promotional charge for the PlayStation maker’s soon-to-be-released system.

The problem with the game is that it feels a little dated. Assuming the role of the eponymous hero – a Tiki-like figure with a fondness for relics – the title sees you hopping through colourful environments, dismantling gremlin grunts and greedily absorbing tokens scattered across the stage. Vacuuming up these items like an overclocked Henry Hoover scratches a similar itch to the Ratchet & Clank games, but almost ten years since the Lombax’s initial outing, the impact is not quite the same. And that seems to be a recurring theme throughout the entire snippet that we got to play; as a double-jump and stomp romp, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with the title – but shouldn’t we be expecting something a little more from a release that, alongside Killzone: Shadow Fall and DriveClub, is essentially steering the PS4’s commercial charge?

The bigwigs at Sony would likely argue that that’s not the point of the game, and we can see the appeal of returning to simpler days. But with commands spanning little more than skip, dodge, and swat, we’re worried that the mechanics will outstay their welcome. And while we did get to see brief morsels of other ideas – a sequence where you must shrink and grow in order to sneak past pesky security beams, for example – these elementary puzzles are unlikely to break up the pace of the punch, evade, jump loop. There may be grander concepts in the full game, but if that’s the case, the platform holder really picked the most basic of areas to demonstrate the adventure. Even a set-piece in which you assume the role of a gargantuan iteration of the titular hero managed to disappoint, as the title simply introduces larger enemies – tanks, helicopters, and the like – to combat your new-found bloat.

In a recent interview with Eurogamer.net, director Cerny put it best when he described the exclusive as a “small” game. The luminary was referring to the release on a technical level, but it does make you question how the title expects to justify its price sticker in a launch lineup likely to be occupied by Battlefield 4, Watch Dogs, and more. We’re not making the argument that platformers are worth less than so-called adult adventures, because we don’t believe that that’s the case. But with arguably more attractive first-party endeavours like Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time and Puppeteer adopting cheaper models at retail, we’re struggling to understand why Knack is not doing the same.

And perhaps the real frustration here is that the game is being forced to lead a lineup when it has no real right to do so. As an inexpensive alternative to the wealth of shooters set to deploy on Sony’s next generation system later this year, then the platformer could offer some mindless respite. But as the focal point for Sony’s impending format – appearing on television, in trailers, and almost every interface image – we’re just not sure that it’s the right choice. And while it’s certainly nice to see Japan Studio back in the limelight, perhaps it’s time that the platform holder put Knack on the sidelines for a while, until the title’s able to prove that it’s worthy of its place in the public eye.


Do you think that we’re being a little too harsh on Knack? Are you planning to purchase the platformer at launch? Let us know in the comments section below.

Are you looking forward to Knack? (56 votes)

Yes, I think that the game looks like a breath of fresh air

38%

I need to see more before I make up my mind

46%

No, nothing that Sony’s shown of the title has impressed me

16%

Please login to vote in this poll.

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User Comments (23)

Snorky

#1

Snorky said:

Lets be honest... The game does very little to showcase the ps4. It looks like it could easily be a ps3 game. That said, having a wide and varied launch title base can only benifit Sony. It's a shame they didn't try to focus on a new IP that really pushes the boat out.

ferrers405

#2

ferrers405 said:

I agree it look more a PS3 game, because of these and nothing more i think should be $40, but i disagree (and saw a little prejudice) with the article when comparing Plataformers with a shooter or "full price game", the lenght and gameplay of the games like COD or Metal Gear Rising for example are short and the style are repetitively used, saying that i prefer pay $60 bucks to a good "old" plataformer, and there are market to this - just see all games that sell well like Sly, Ratchet, Sonic, DK and Mario.

Itachi

#3

Itachi said:

Knack does look like it could turn out to be a really nice game. The problem is that it lacks a next gen appeal. In terms of graphics and even playabilty I put it on par with Ratchet and Clank for PS3, and while R&C is a great series for PS3, you tend to expect something more on PS4. That being said it is nice to see Sony trying to bring back the mascots to gaming, and Knack does look very much like a mascot kind of game. I would buy it for the right price maybe in the $39.99 range but I don't think it's worth $60.

nitrofeen

#4

nitrofeen said:

I think its kinda silly to suggest a game step out of the limelight based on a demo. Its pretty obvious to me that this is a game for younger less experienced gamers and that is why sony is pushing it. They want people who have owned the wii like casual gamers to know that the ps4 has games for them too. Also the game looks good for what it is in terms of graphics. It looks like a animated cartoon and the character has a lot of physics and particles going on. I plan on buying this game for my son and I will probably try it on hard setting to see if I can have fun with it too

ShogunRokAdmin

#5

ShogunRok said:

It's either going to surprise with how good it actually is, or it'll be PS4's first big flop. Platform-adventure titles have really fallen since the days of the original PlayStation, and it's looking like they'll never really make a massive return outside of Mario titles. For whatever reason the market just isn't snapping them up like it used to.

Still, I'm hoping Knack turns out great. A game with Cerny behind it is bound to have some surprisingly good ideas, I just don't think it's the type of game that should be at the forefront of numerous PS4 promotions.

rjejr

#6

rjejr said:

I was really excited for this game when they first showed the trailer, more excited than I've been for most new IPS, but the more I see the less I like.

Positive - colorful 3D platformer, which have been my favorite games since the original 3 Spyros (the next gen or whatever Spyro's were wrong) followed by the PS2 tri-fecta of Sly, Jak and Ratchet

Negative - fixed camera linear gameplay

Why does a PS4 game need or want a fixed camera? With these cartoony graphics? Maybe the game will be more open, but from what I've seen it's indoor linear like Sly Cooper or GoW. But the setting is World of Warcraft. This needs to be open world like inFamous of Lego City Undercover on the WiiU. And yeah, getting bigger only to fight bigger enemies kind of defeats the purpose. I love Wonderful End of the World (PC Katarmi rip-off) b/c you really get a sense of scale. Nothing I've seen of this has shown that.

This game looks too much like Skylanders or Disney Universe (pre-Infinity) rather than inFamous Second Son, which a PS4 title should look like. Not dark and dreary, I really like the cartoon look, but I want adventure, not hallways.

Zombie_Barioth

#7

Zombie_Barioth said:

I don't see why Knack can't be successful, but Sony is going to have its work cut out for it. I can see they're going the family-friendly route but unlike Nintendo they don't have that family-friendly image anymore. Thats not to say they're not but when people think of family-friendly Sony isn't the first to come to mind.

Theres still a market for platformers but new IPs have a lot of trouble finding an audience, they get ignored in favor of established franchises. They're also just not as popular anymore, probably due to oversaturation in the past and not being seen as "console quality" anymore. I think the latter is due to the simplicity of the genre and the way they're usually done.

get2sammybAdmin

#8

get2sammyb said:

@rjejr In response to the fixed camera, they're very much going for the God of War style of gameplay. I think people are going to be surprised just how much this plays like God of War.

Cirno

#9

Cirno said:

If anything Killzone: Shadow Fall is really the dated one here.

Confused_DudeStaff

#10

Confused_Dude said:

I'd much prefer Knack to be free on day one than a watered down version of Driveclub, but that only seems reasonable to me because I value Knack less than the 'big budget' launch titles.

rjejr

#12

rjejr said:

@get2sammyb - Yeah, I saw the video and know they are going for God of War, but why? Does this look like it's going to pull in the GoW gamer? And GoW 3 had a fixed camera to look like that, it's still 1 of the best looking games on the PS3. Knack isn't going to be the best looking PS4 game. For a game this cartoony to have a fixed camera I'ld expect it look like I Was looking out of a window. OK, into a toy box, but you know what I mean.

Ginkgo

#13

Ginkgo said:

My guess is that the fixed camera is to make it more accessible to a younger audience, especially after hearing about his giant controller idea.

Personally, I think that the biggest challenge to the game is that the main character looks ugly and menacing. Not at all endearing. At least not to me.

jgrangervikings

#14

jgrangervikings said:

Not every video game player is interested in playing Infamous, Watch Dogs, or Kill Zone. There are a hell of a lot of gamers who love fun, easy-to-pick-up-and-play games that give the player a sense of empowerment over the environment. And, a lot of those same players would be playing something like this on the WiiU, except WiiU system sales have been terrible. By offering games like Knack, Sony will probably win over those people who really would rather get a Nintendo but haven't put their money down on a WiiU. It's brilliant. Why buy Nintendo when PS4 offers that same Nintendo-fun experience AND gives you that true next-generation experience that you won't get from Nintendo?! If Knack isn't your cup of tea, that's just fine--that's why PS4 has other games for you...go check out Kill Zone, Infamous, and Watch Dogs. :-)

ShogunRokAdmin

#15

ShogunRok said:

@jgrangervikings That's true, at least Knack gives the launch lineup a bit of variety. I think the main worry, however, is the initial user base's interest in it. Like every console before it, PS4 will surely have to rely on the 'hardcore' early adopters such as ourselves - the question is, does Knack appeal to the majority of those gamers as much as something like KIllzone: Shadow Fall?

I'm really hoping Knack gets some good reviews and has a solid release, though. It would be nice to see something a little different do well.

BlueProxy

#16

BlueProxy said:

I've been wondering why Knack is getting so much face time considering it's the most powerful console to date, and a lot weighing on it's success. When I think of PS4, I get a visual in my head of the Knack character... that's not good. It should instead be The Order, Infamous 2, The Last Guardian (I can dream)... something besides that. Even the name seems out of place.

Maybe Sony was going for the all-around family-friendly spin to appeal to a bigger audience. Just seems like this is not the right title for so much attention.

Gamer83

#18

Gamer83 said:

I've been thinking myself that Sony would have to rely more on Killzone or Drive Club at launch. I certainly don't think this looks bad but as others have stated it looks like it could have been a PS3 downloadable game. I think I'd have prefered Japan Studio work on Gravity Rush 2 for its PS4 debut.

Sutorcen

#19

Sutorcen said:

This game is targeted primarily at kids. As such I believe it's a very effective launch title. Cerny said that they designed the controls with kids in mind. My only complain is the name Knack...

Visiblemode

#21

Visiblemode said:

I dunno. Will get it. Just to round out my launch playlist. I think judging the game based on the, admittedly, light demos is a mistake. Consider that a demo of any classic Sony platformer would tend to underwhelm. These kinds of games are a slower burn. It's sort of like how after a few hours with a big action game, you sorta need to pull back, but a cartoon platformer has that never-wanna-put-it-down quality.

Visiblemode

#22

Visiblemode said:

Also, I just wanna quickly point out that while the active PushSquare community isn't enormous, I really do love the quality of it's members. The discussions are insightful and respectful and it reminds me a bit of an internet from the old days, in the best possible way. So thanks to the site and to you other users for keeping it sane and fun.

Kage_88

#23

Kage_88 said:

Not too hot on Knack, TBH. It just seems so generic; IMO, Sony's 'family friendly' titles don't have the same magic that is present in Nintendo's own games. I mean, Pikmin 3 looks 10x better on the 'inferior' Wii U.

With that said though, I actually think it's great that Knack is one of PS4's showcase games (as contradictory as that sounds). It conveys the message that Sony's isn't just about 'mature' (i.e.. violent & sweary) games, but rather a wide range of original experiences that caters to all ages and tastes.

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