Saturday, 11 January 2014


A new console generation is always a bit of a rollercoaster; on the one hand you have the excitement of new hardware and on the other, the inevitable disappointment caused by sub-par launch titles. In this particular PlayStation4 3D platformer, you are Knack - a walking, talking collection of “Relics” brought to life by Doctor Vargas.

Not everyone is as confident as Doctor Vargas when he introduces Knack but the doctor believes his creation is the best tool in an on-going war between humans and goblins. At just three feet tall he doesn't look like much but we soon discover that there's more to Knack than meets the eye. He's fast and feisty and takes down even the steeliest of robots with ease. Knack can absorb energy from Sun Crystals allowing him to use special abilities and grows larger by taking in extra relics, turning him into a massive Goblin smashing machine.

Simple to Play, Shame about the Story
Knack's gameplay is fun and the controls are simple, making it easy to pick up. The story line, sadly, is lacking making this more of a game you'll dabble with when you've got time to kill, then casually cast aside once you're done. This is somewhat of a shame as the game’s creator, Mark Cerny, helped develop some of the most popular titles and mascots of previous generations; Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon, so I can't help feeling the potential was there for something so much better. Though I've never played a platformer where I've really immersed myself in the story the way I did with, say, Ni No Kuni or a Final Fantasy game.

Despite the less than engaging storyline, the fact that Knack periodically changes from being small and fast to very large and powerful provides an interesting change of pace throughout. It's pretty sweet when you're a hulking creature that can take out a troll in one hit and destroy the environment by going for a simple stroll. But when Knack shrinks back down again, you forgive him his lack of power because he makes up for it with speed (plus he looks cute).

The two-player co-op option gives Knack a little buddy, “Robo-Knack”. This is fun for a while but if Robo-Knack can’t keep up, the camera follows Knack and Knack's buddy gets left behind, off screen. Bizzarely, Robo-Knack also seems able to take more punches than Knack lending to a strangely lopsided gameplay experience. It doesn’t even help much as when Knack dies, the game returns to the last checkpoint so player two can't continue solo. This can get pretty frustrating when you're about to kill an enemy and suddenly you're back to the beginning of the area.

There is an Easy mode making this game a good choice for the kids or casual gamers out there. Meanwhile Hard mode is masochistically hard and Knack can die in a single hit, which sometimes feels maddeningly cheap. This can be a real pain as some of the checkpoints are quite far apart and you're made to play the same part of the game over and over again, with increased sighing and swearing. Normal is a better option if you're not a masochist while still providing enough of a challenge for adult gamers.

Pixar Look and Feel
Visually this game looks very much like a Disney Pixar film with characters sporting a cartoonish appearance, all upper torso, big noses and tiny legs; even the bad guy has a pointy-evil-guy beard. This is sure to appeal to those who like that style; I personally found it refreshingly light-hearted and fun. Style aside, the graphics are where this game impresses and this is the main reason you know you're playing a next-gen console game.

The music is adequate but forgettable; nothing tear inducing like Ballad of the Wind Fish or ear-bleedingly bad either and the voice acting is generally good but Knack's voice came as a bit of a surprise. Not at all what I would have imagined him to sound like and I think I would have opted for something different, a bit less... human sounding?

There is occasional use of the controller speaker when Knack picks up new relics, which although pleasantly surprising at first ultimately seems a bit redundant. Sadly, there's no use of the PS4's touch pad or any of its other new features. All-in-all quite a missed opportunity.

The simplicity of this game and style of its animation makes it good for younger gamers, while Normal mode provides more of a challenge for adults and Hard mode for the hardcore gamers out there. Co-op is good if you want to show your friends what the PS4 can do graphically but is lacking when it comes to showing off the console's other new features. 

Gripes aside this is a fun game with something for both kids and adults to enjoy, definitely worth checking out.


Ant Silvers

Knack at CeX

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