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Knack (PS4) Review

 
knack logo ps4
knack logo ps4
knack logo ps4

 
At a Glance...
 

Formats: Playstation 4
 
Genre: ,
 
Year:
 
Publisher:
 
Developer:
 
Final Score
6.5
6.5/ 10


User Rating
1 total rating

 

We Liked?


  • Solid enough slice of platforming action
  • Channels the ghosts of Crash, Spyro, Jak
  • Clean and colourful graphics and a very intriguing use of particles in a game

Not So Much?


  • Occasional buggy levels, slow-down and geometry issues
  • Despite trying to update them this feels like a poor homage to the golden PS1 platformers
  • Combat is frustratingly hard, even after you cotton on to the dodge-strike mentality
  • Really drags as the game rounds the 10 hour mark
  • Lacklustre and dripping with monotony at times


Final Fiendish Findings?

All said and done I’ve enjoyed my time with Knack and I’d certainly recommend people check it out for themselves. Some will fall early on with the frustration and lack of WOW-factor. Others will winkle a satisfying, but needlessly hard, platform adventure from the slightly messy execution.

0
Posted December 11, 2013 by

 
Final Fiendish Findings?
 
 

Knack appears to be one of those titles that has been dragged into the street and kick around by reviewers the world over. So what’s actually wrong?

Knack sees you taking control of an entity made entirely of relics. Forged by a scientists’ tinkering with an ancient power orb set in a relic your character comes together using the ability to channel these pieces to form his body.

During an attempt to clean up the world from goblin raids a plot unfurls that will take Knack, his creator and their friends around the globe to uncover who is arming these orcs and why are they after all the relics.

OK so the plot is pretty lame for Knack and it reads like a rejected idea for a saturday morning cartoon but it serves the purpose of binding together this excuse for a PS1 era jaunt back to the times of Crash Bandicoot and Spyro.. with maybe a passing nod or two to PS2 classics like Jak and Daxter or Ratchet & Clank.

Control of Knack is simple for the most part. Move him around as you would any other 3rd person platform character with the left stick and use the face buttons to perform a simple jump or hit action. Using the right stick will execute a small dash/dodge maneuver that will help you get out of the way of your attackers as you traverse the games many levels.

knack image 2

Knack is made of relics, for the most part, which can be slowly smashed away as he takes damage – and BOY will you take damage! These relics can be replenished from certain artifacts around the game world and basically act as his life indicator. The more relics you have, the large Knack becomes. This sounds like at some stage you could trounced a level as a huge version of Knack but in reality the levels have been designed to keep you at a specific size throughout.

That said there are levels where you play as huge Knack smashing buildings and tanks in your path and there are other times when you play as a fragile Knack made of glass. This helps change things up a little as levels progress.

As mentioned in passing above combat in Knack is hard… really bloody hard! Unnecessarily so it has to be said. So much so that it can be a major turn off and lead to utter frustration at times. You have a limit arsenal. You perform a series of punches using the face button that will take out most enemies in one to four hits depending on the enemy and relative size of Knack at the time. Trouble is most enemies can render you dead in only a couple of hits. Mostly the issues of Knacks combat are down to your mindset as the player.

Usually these platformers are geared to allow you to plough through enemies on your way to traverse the level – almost just as a mild annoyance to push out of the way to reach your goal.. to save you just sprinting from start line to finish line. In Knack that’s simply not the case. Each encounter is a game of pause and reason. Pause to see what your enemies attack pattern is, reason the best method of dispatching them, then execute that plan. It’s not the most conducive of methods to the flow of a platformer but it’s a change from the usual. It’s all counter and dodge with a healthy dollop of jump and and dive kick thrown in. Once you accept this method of playing Knack the game opens up to be more enjoyable. Fight against it – as most reviews seem to have – and you’ll have a miserable time.

knack image 3

The combat and simple platforming in Knack is complemented by a limited number of special moves. Collecting the yellow sun crystals around the environment will build up your ability to execute these special attacks which range from a ground stomp maneuver, to a swirling vortex. They can really help in a pinch and with careful execution can get you out of a tight spot.

Having to grind a sequence you keep failing over and over can be a real chore. Remembering to collect all the sun crystals in the area each time though can make the difference as you’ll build up an array of specials to help you through that tricky section. The restart points in the game are lacking though as they send you back minutes each time requiring you to repeat monotonous sections over and over in some instances – this can become frustrating fast.

Graphically Knack is pleasing enough. It won’t wow your friends with it’s graphical prowess and it won’t be winning any awards for artistic design. That said what is on show is well defined, looks better than you’d be getting from a PS3 and offers something a little unique from the norm. Well… Knack does. The character designs for the humans and the comical looking orcs are ripped straight out of gaming troup monthly.

The game moves at a fair pace and looks colourful and bright for the most part. Large expansive areas – created when the camera pulls out – seem sparse and you’ll often walk through massive areas of a level with very little in them other than the boundaries that define them. Whilst we mention the camera this does a reasonable job most of the time. This is in part due to the fact that Knack ops for the fixed angled views of a title like Uncharted or Ratchet & Clank. I presume this is to help keep frame rates up and not worry about rendering unnecessary parts of levels.

knack image 1

There are a few touches of slow down and some of the animation can seem a little canned at times. Slow down seems to occur at random points rather than just when there is loads going on on-screen which denotes that maybe certain areas just didn’t get as optimised as they should have been before launch.

Sound work is good for the most part. Plenty of voice work throughout that is delivered with moderate skill despite the pretty terrible dialogue the characters are asked to produce. Musical score is competent and compliments the differing environments well – it never really elevates the proceedings but it at least causes no harm.

Throughout Knack’s sizeable campaign (roughly 12 – 15 hours) you will be frustrated at many a turn. The biggest offence that Knack seems to commit is in the excitement stakes. As the game comes in to the final third you’ve seen pretty much all you want from the game. The last parts just drag and become monotonous – or at worst super frustrating as the difficulty increases. A real lack of upgrades hamper the game too. You can locate secret chests throughout the game. Each chest will reveal a part of some contraption or doohickey that will tweak Knack in some way – better attack, locate secret rooms, gold more sun crystal power etc. The problem is that you’re just not unlocking these until nearer the back part of the game – if at all! The trophy for actually unlocking a complete upgrade is still deemed Rare even weeks after launch.

knack image 4

Final Thoughts

I found Knack to be a better than average action platformer. A game that tries to put some strategy into its combat yet fails to make it fun to do so. Frustration levels will be high and the payoffs from getting through levels might not be enough for some.  I found scoring the game so very difficult.  As a pure exercise in reviewing the game should be a solid 5.  It does what it needs to and has a few design issues that cause it to be frustrating.  As a player though I fell fo r Knack’s charms and that, after all is who this review is aimed at – gamers like me who’re after a reasonable few hours for their money.  Not some cynical hack that just wants to score points for knocking something that’s not perfect.

Personally I found Knack just about compelling enough to keep going with, despite frustrations at times and the repetition of the later levels. It can be hard for all the wrong reasons which makes it a poor choice for the younger gamer that it’s so obviously aimed at.

Knack attempts to bring us a new generation of platformer but manages to just retread a lot of the ground (and issues) associated with those pioneer platformers back on the Playstation 1. As great as Crash Bandicoot was I;m not necessarily in the market for playing a poorer version of it on a next generation console.

All said and done I’ve enjoyed my time with Knack and I’d certainly recommend people check it out for themselves. Some will fall early on with the frustration and lack of WOW-factor. Others will winkle a satisfying, but needlessly hard, platform adventure from the slightly messy execution.


Zeth

 
Zeth is our EU ninja and Editor in Chief. He's been writing about video games since 2008 when he started on BrutalGamer. He's pretty old and has been a gamer since he played Space Invaders as a young boy in the 80's. His genre tastes lean towards platformers, point-and-click adventure, action-adventure and shooters but he'll turn his hand to anything.