Knack is the PlayStation 4′s debut platforming title that aims to bring back the glory days of Crash Bandicoot on the PlayStation. But does Knack get the job done or is it a failed attempt to recapture the magic?
Knack reminds me a lot of Crash Bandicoot. Oh boy I wish I was playing Crash Bandicoot. With Watch_Dogs and DriveClub delayed into next year Knack is one of the few new games you can choose from when getting the PlayStation 4. Unfortunately, mostly everything shown of Knack looks really pretty and next-gen but that’s all it has going for it. Knack is a game that can literally be called “PS4 Crash Bandicoot“, but it really doesn’t make it to the half-way point Crash created back in the mid ’90s. Despite being backed by industry legend Mark Cerny, this PS4 launch title doesn’t have what it takes to make it a killer must-have game.
At its core, Knack is a very simple game which, instead of evolving into a complexy yet engrossing challenge, instead becomes increasingly frustrating the more you play it. The simplicity of its gameplay actually makes the game hard at times turning this “all ages game” into an anger-inducing mess. The game is set in a world where humans and goblins co-exist yet are mostly hostile towards each other. The humans have forced the goblins into the forest while they recline in their luxery-filled lives. This could have been a good plot for the game but the story is soon abandoned in favor of other priorities. After an outpost is attacked by new technologically-advanced goblins, a group of scared ruling humans set out on a voluntary mission to find the new goblin menace and find out how they gained access to such advanced technology.
You play as Knack, a creature that is a golem (living inanimate object) much like that in Hebrew mythology. An unknown past civilization left behind items called relics that the human race used to make technological leaps and Knack is made completely out of relics. The more relics Knack collects, the stronger and bigger he becomes, thus collecting relics is the main goal of the game. Along the way you discover you can incorporate different types of materials and elements becoming anything you want. The different elementals have different uses to get by the puzzles in the game. Aside from the rare puzzles you are more concerned with getting rid of your enemies and getting to your next location.
This is where Knack becomes all that it is capable of: an action platformer reminiscent of the PS1-PS2 era. It is a mix of Crash Bandicoot, Ratchet and Clank, and a little bit of Clank. While this is a platformer you spend a lot of time in the middle of combat and are capable of dying very easily. This would be no problem but instead of placing you where you died, you are instead thrown back to the last known checkpoint. Meaning that if you get towards another checkpoint and die right before, you have to start over way back at the beginning. This is very reminiscent of 2008′s Prince of Persia game that had nearly the same exact checkpoint problems. This is even more frustrating when fighting boss enemies. The worst part is that you could be 99.9% done with a boss fight and then out of nowhere die and have to start the infuriating boss battle all over again.
All that said, this IS a next-gen game and it looks extremely beautiful and a top tier title. The transition between cutscene and gameplay is actually harder to identify than a more recent last-gen game like Uncharted. Despite being a next gen game the gameplay is extremely repetitive and unoriginal. All you are doing in this game combat-wise is punching people with extreme force. However, when you have enough sun-crystals you can do special moves that can range from a smash that knocks out anything within a certain radius or shoot energy at your foes. Most of the time these aren’t necessary but payoff if you want to quickly get out of the way of some goblins or robots.
Everything aside, this game would be fantastic if it was marketed to the Ninja Gaiden/Dark Souls crowd instead of the casual crowd. As the game has a look that evokes LittleBigPlanet you would expect the game and the central character to be like LBP. Instead it feels more like a bad G rated DreamWorks animated film. Unfortunately, even the gameplay is a let-down as environments are recycled and certain areas look as if the Sony Japan development team simply did a copy and paste job. Knack certainly has replay value as there are a large amount of collectibles and parts for devices you are scouring the area for.
As for the plot, betrayals and other events are extremely predictable and the only compelling character in my eyes wasn’t explored rather than a source of information while the others are not compelling in any way. All the other characters are either caricatures of successful game characters or stereotypical versions of villains. Speaking of villains, the villain that emerges early on, can be seen coming thirty-thousand light years away. Knack himself isn’t really a great character as he doesn’t really contribute other than being magical muscle.
All in all, Knack is a game that fails to deliver on the expectations it has set. The game looks great and it is playable but it also can hardly be enjoyed without getting frustrated with its difficulty. The PS4 launch lineup thankfully isn’t at a point where it’s dependent upon Knack doing well financially but whatever sales are made by Knack, will certainly help the PlayStation 4′s financial situation.