(PlayStation 4)

Knack (PlayStation 4)

Game Review

Knack Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Marcello Apostolico

Old-school platformer, new-school technology

Way back in February of this year, millions of viewers around the world witnessed the reveal of Sony’s next generation console in New York City, the PlayStation 4. With lead architect Mark Cerny on stage to underline the advancements of the swish piece of hardware, the Marble Madness creator unveiled the system’s very first title, Knack. Developed by Japan Studio – one of the platform holder’s internal development outfits – the game was touted as a return to the simple, fun, and engaging platformers of old. But does it soar to the heights of Spyro the Dragon or sink to the depths of Bubsy 3D?

The game’s narrative thrusts you into the plot immediately, taking little time to beat around the bush. You’re introduced to an action sequence showcasing an army of goblins attacking a human base. It quickly becomes clear that these foreign creatures have evolved their weaponry in such a way that the mortals can’t fight back, and in a desperate meeting between the Earth’s top researchers, the bespectacled Doctor Vargas insists that a small creature known as, er, Knack represents the solution to mankind’s problems.

It’s explained that the titular hero has the ability to harness kinetic energy through relics, and this will become pivotal in the battle against the abovementioned enemies. Throughout the plot, it’s revealed that the protagonist is capable of many more skills than merely explosive growth, and this plays a pivotal role in the way that the story plays out. It’s a fun yarn that will keep you engaged – but you’re never going to get particularly attached to the characters.

At its core, Knack is an old-school platformer. There are few mechanics or gameplay elements on offer here that couldn’t be done on a current generation console, so this may not be the showcase piece of software that you’ve been looking for. Nevertheless, its fusion of Crash Bandicoot-inspired platforming and God of War-esque combat is enjoyable in short bursts, and it makes the game a great option for both families and those with a penchant for the PSone adventures of old.

Indeed, the controls are accessible enough that anyone can play. You’ll control the titular hero with the left analogue stick, while the right analogue stick will allow you to quickly dodge any incoming attacks. You’ll also have access to jump and double-jump capabilities – it’s a platformer, after all – along with a more traditional attack option and Super Moves, which are initiated by tapping the Circle button followed by a second input.

Knack is able to dish out three-hit combos with ease, with each hit deploying more damage than the one preceding it. The character also has access to a dash-attack and mid-air homing attack, giving you a fair few options in combat despite the simplistic controls. When your back’s against the wall, Super Moves such as the ability to spin around like a tornado, smash the ground heavily, and blast enemies with a concentrated round of energy augment you with the opportunity to take the upper-hand. The title also frequently throws a variety of foes at you, with multiple strategies requiring memorisation if you intend to avoid taking damage. It’s simple system, then, but the developer does just enough to keep it varied, which helps to keep the adventure interesting across its meaty running time.

The game boasts 13 chapters in total, each of which is laden with hidden areas that contain even more items for Knack to absorb. You’ll need to collect multiple parts to unlock gadgets, which boast a variety of boosts. One example includes the ability to earn more Sunstone crystals from each foe that you dispose of, while another highlights secret areas as you approach them. Finding all of the hidden items may take more than one playthrough, but this does increase replay value – especially seeing as there’s a New Game Plus option which allows you to experience the game again with all of your gear intact. Cleverly, you can swap items with friends via the PlayStation Network, and even unlock more goods in the game’s iOS and Android spin-off Knack’s Quest.

Throughout parts of the adventure, Knack will be able to transform into elemental alter-egos. For example, there’s a point where the character can be made entirely out of transparent crystals, preventing him from tripping any alarm lasers. There’s also another segment where wooden logs will attach to the hero, which can then be set alight and employed to burn down wooden doors and gates.

If that’s not enough, you can play the game with two-players, employing either a second DualShock 4 controller or a PlayStation Vita. Here, the additional player takes charge of Robo-Knack, a mirror of the main hero who boasts the ability to heal the protagonist. While this extra doesn’t culminate in any particularly groundbreaking co-op action, it’s a very welcome feature if you want to play with friends or family.

In addition to the main campaign, there’s also a Time Attack mode, which consists of 13 stages from certain areas of the core adventure. As the name may indicate, your objective here is to get through the level as fast and efficiently as possible, and upon completion you’ll obtain a rank and a position on the game’s leaderboards. Meanwhile, Coliseum Battles sees you facing waves of increasingly potent enemies, each of which will test your combat finesse to the finest. As already alluded, this is far from an easy game, and while the inconsistent checkpointing will frustrate at times, you’ll at least feel rewarded for your skills throughout. This is especially true during the boss battles, which are infrequent but require skill to successfully navigate.

While the majority of your attention will be fixated on keeping Knack alive, you certainly won’t miss the whimsical visuals. This isn’t a showpiece for the next generation console by any stretch, but the environments are well detailed, with sharp texture work, lush colours, and some nice lighting effects. The protagonist is arguably the star of the show, though, as he is comprised of hundreds, if not thousands, of relic particles that float around his core. If he takes damage, you’ll see these resources fall off and scatter across the ground, while collecting the goodies will see the character grow. Unfortunately, there are some framerate drops that occur when things get crazy, which is a particular problem during the aforementioned boss battles. It’s not game-breaking, but it’s certainly noticeable – and it’s not really acceptable for a game of this simplicity.

In terms of audio, the launch title has a very good soundtrack that provides some atmospheric tunes, while making things much more cinematic when the action picks up. The sound effects are particularly great, with attacks from both the protagonist and enemies sounding punchy and effective. A nice extra touch from the development team employs the DualShock 4’s audio speaker during gameplay, allowing you to hear when you collect relics and crystals. The voice acting is also solid, with the tone of the hero lowering as he grows.

Conclusion

Knack offers a refreshing return to the PSone platformers of old. The title may not be particularly ambitious, but it has a nostalgic quality that can make it difficult to put down. Checkpoint hiccups, framerate issues, and difficulty spikes prevent it from reaching its maximum potential – but much like the titular hero himself, the title will definitely grow on you.

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User Comments (62)

MadchesterManc

#4

MadchesterManc said:

I'm glad to see a level headed review for Knack. Tried it during a hands on and pretty much came away with the same impression as this review. It's not as terrible as the mainstream press would have you believe. That award goes to Ryse after all ;) Knack isn't a game I'd buy at launch, but it's one I'll play through at some point

Cloud7794

#6

Cloud7794 said:

Anyone else notice that some of the game's sound effects are straight from Crash Bandicoot? :D Also, great review, It really is a fun game, did not disappoint :)

get2sammybAdmin

#14

get2sammyb said:

Great review, Marcello. I've got to say, I'm really excited to play this one. It's grown on me over the past few months or so, and while I can appreciate it's probably never going to win any awards, I find something appealing about the simple concept. Can't wait to try it out.

Azikira

#18

Azikira said:

Wow, the first non-scathing review of Knack. I truly wanted a PS4 for this game, but since everyone has flung so much hate/dislike at it, I am gunna hold off until more games hit the market. Then I'll probably still pick this up~

BornOfEvil

#19

BornOfEvil said:

This is the first levelheaded review of Knack that I've read. I think a lot of people were upset that Knack was the first next-gen exclusive we saw and it didn't have guns or dogs, which is why it was so poorly received.

Regardless of its scores, I was going to pick up Knack because I'm not the kind of person who lets reviewers think for me.

DrJoeystein

#20

DrJoeystein said:

Excellent review, Marcello! I've played about 4 hours of the game so far and am enjoying it as well (although I wish there was more varied and difficult platforming instead of very frequent combat). Although I disagree that the voice acting is solid (it's very "cheesy" imo, which I wonder if the developer intended or not), everything else you've said is fair and agreeable. I think most critics have just been too hard on the game as if they were expecting something with a deep story, extremely varied gameplay, etc.

Anyway, I can't wait to finish it! As a big fan of Crash and Spyro, it's great to see a game inspired by those classic platformers.

TasukiStaff

#21

Tasuki said:

Excellent review but I dont think I will buy this one right away. If anything I will rent this one from GameFly.

Spidernoir

#22

Spidernoir said:

The reviews scores are telling me to pick this up when I get my PS4.

Well that and this is the only action-adventure game other than AC (which im picking up as well) out.

Unless of course I'm missing a few games (someone PLEASE correct me I need more games for my PS4).

RaymanFan2

#24

RaymanFan2 said:

@Sanquine "I'm not trying to explain to you why I don't like it, because I'm not trying to change anyone's opinion of it.

I'm just saying that I don't like it."

Edited it a little bit, but same message, generally.

ferrers405

#25

ferrers405 said:

Excellent Review, shows the flaws and the good moments of the game, I look forward to play Knack.

get2sammybAdmin

#26

get2sammyb said:

@RaymanFan2 Fair enough that you didn't like it - I think people are just wondering what you didn't like about it. It's great that you've got an opinion on that game, but I think people just feel they'd be able to get into a better discussion with you if you perhaps explained why.

Your username's Rayman, so I'm assuming you're a fan of the genre! :P

IAmNotWill

#27

IAmNotWill said:

Another launch game I am uninterested in. Really glad I didn't get one yet. People without one shouldn't fret.

2014 will be the year.

Pink_Floyd

#28

Pink_Floyd said:

Grate review I think its a step in the right direction. The whole time I played I thought about Spyro and Crash. The way the game ended left a lot of unanswered questions making it seem like it will get a sequel. Personally I think this will be the next big Playstation mascot just like Spyro and Crash where on the PS :).

butcherknife

#29

butcherknife said:

Played this through Chapter 5 with my 9 year old over the past couple nights after work and school. She with the DualShock 4 as Knack and me with the Vita as RoboKnack. We both really like it....and are making time tonight to keep continue. By the way - The Vita works great. Seriously, it is sort of crazy how good it works without lag and it looks fantastic on the Vita.

R17

#31

R17 said:

Finally an honest review for Knack! Well written, and passionate. I will be purchasing this game based on your review.

Glacier928Staff

#35

Glacier928 said:

@Azikira Thanks! I was shocked by how negative most other critics were about Knack and felt they may have been a bit overly harsh towards it. Personally, I really enjoyed it! It's definitely worth playing through.

Glacier928Staff

#36

Glacier928 said:

@BornOfEvil Haha I also thought the same thing about critics knocking it cause it may not have "guns" or "dogs" :P

Thanks for checking out the review!

jgrangervikings1

#40

jgrangervikings1 said:

I definitely enjoyed my time with the demo at the local Best Buy store. I had a lot of fun beating up the baddies and growing bigger. The only thing that bummed me out (just a little) was that I was hoping I could be more destructive with things in the environment, like the cars and buildings and such. Still, it's worth checking out, even if you don't think you are going to like it.

drumsandperc92

#41

drumsandperc92 said:

good review. i figured it'd be around a 7 or 8. i was secretly hoping it would be in incredible game, but just didn't have the actual expectation.
this will surely be coming to PSN+ as a freebie sooner rather than later, that's when i'll give it a go!

Gamer83

#43

Gamer83 said:

@Tasuki

As a plus member you may not even have to spend a cent on this game. Just give it a little time, it will be part of the instant game collection. In fact, it wouldn't shock me if it's offered there by April.

Visiblemode

#45

Visiblemode said:

THIS is a fair score for this game. Finally.

The game is way underrated. I theorize this comes mostly from people coming to the insane conclusion this is an "unfair button masher." Um no... This game takes skill...stop sucking.

banacheck

#48

banacheck said:

Real good to see a honest opinion, a few people i know who have the game say the same sort of thing. On harder difficulty quite challenging too, I love platformers so i'll be picking it up.

Munkyknuts

#50

Munkyknuts said:

A back to basics simple and fun platformer get thrust forward as the figurehead of the PS4 was always going to get unfairly torn apart in reviews because it doesn't have the swagger and the wow factor to live up to all the attention it was given....I've not played it but from what I've read and seen of it 7/10 seems fair.

kingandaval

#51

kingandaval said:

I'll be honest, don't know that I'd download this game even if I was given it on Plus. There's nothing next-gen about it.

CanisWolfred

#52

CanisWolfred said:

This is definitely a game I can respect...even if I know its one I wouldn't enjoy. I have zero nostalgia for 32/64-bit platformers and have disliked the ones I've tried in recent years. Except Super Mario 64, of course. Still, I like that they tried to go back to an era that hasn't been revisited a bajillion times, and actually made something decent, if simplistic and sorta flawed game. I also liked that they tried for a cartoon-y aesthetic in an era full of doom-and-gloom, hyper-realistic games.

odd69

#53

odd69 said:

The controls are stiff. I take my opinion back. This is a turd to me. No excuses. But it was just the demo i've played.

RaevenStaff

#60

Raeven said:

That's a lot of comments, I just came to see what score this had received. I must say, I agree with much of the review and the score. Sure, it's not groundbreaking, but it's good, old school fun in the vein of Ratchet and Clank etc, and that's good enough for me. The kids love it, so it was worth every penny.

Shadowsoul83

#61

Shadowsoul83 said:

I really had high hopes for this game. It almost had a Kameo feel to it, and although I havs not played Knack yet I can't help but feel dissapointed in the end result. What is really confusing for me is how did this receive the same score as Killzone Shadow Fall?!

Diddy_kong

#62

Diddy_kong said:

I’m really looking forward to playing this one whenever I get around to picking up a PS4. I’ve played the demo a number of times at my local EB Games and I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s a throwback to the simpler design of the games from my childhood and I think my girlfriend and I will have a blast with the co-op.

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