Knack: A Next-Gen Relic

As highlighted in Blair’s recent review, Knack isn’t a particularly good game. Currently sitting at a Metacritic average of 55, it’s by far one of the lowest-rated titles on Sony’s next-gen system, though the launch exclusive hasn’t done too terribly in the sales department, grabbing 13th in this week’s charts.

In a nutshell, Knack is a shiny albeit pared down platformer. The game follows our titular hero and companions as they seek to break the human-goblin stalemate. What sets Knack apart is that he’s made completely from Relics. The bite-sized chunks of ancient civilisation are the world’s dominant power source, granting Knack improved size and strength as he collects them.

It’s a sound premise and no way near as daft as those which have propped up some of the biggest platforming franchises in gaming. This concept of adjustable character size and the juxtaposition of ancient treasure with modern tech opens the door for a myriad of possibilities in terms of both gameplay and narrative.

Disappointingly, Knack tries to play things safe, regurgitating the same platforming template that has been kicked about since the days of the original PlayStation. Sure, it looks great in some places but Knack’s combat, puzzles and navigation are basic. There’s just no depth to the gameplay experience whatsoever; any form of variety is simply a thin veil to that basic gameplay, whether that be new environmental hazards or enemies to tussle with.

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It’s not as if the game is particularly easy either. Judging by the flow and feel of Knack, I was expecting to rip through levels in no time. However, enemies can (and will) dish out insane amounts of damage, even on Normal difficulty. It wouldn’t be so bad if there was room for experimentation, yet the only way to dispatch enemies is through a handful of melee attacks or using one of your Sunstone-powered abilities. Next to the basic gameplay, Knack’s beguiling difficulty spikes stand out even more, made only worse by the large gaps between checkpoints.

Having waded my way through to the sixth chapter, I wouldn’t feel bad retiring Knack to the game shelf or trading it in for one of the better launch titles out there. Where platformers like Jak & Daxter, God of War, and Ratchet & Clank feel unique and continually drive the player from one set piece to the next, Knack feels painfully drawn out, and more than overstays its welcome.

A part of me is convinced that Japan Studio will, at some point, go back to the drawing board and come up with a worthwhile sequel. What the game really needs is a succinct amount of depth where its three core tenets are concerned. Combat needs to involve more than two primary attacks and perhaps a combo system that isn’t hidden behind an unlockable bonus. Navigation and platforming could also do with an overhaul, and while I don’t have anything against linear action games, Knack seems like it could also work well in an open world environment, littered with challenges and puzzles players can unlock and revisit over time.

Truth be told, I didn’t have incredibly high hopes for Knack, even as it was touted as coming Mark Cerny, who has been involved with the creation of so many major platforming franchises. With that said, I knew it wouldn’t be a distinctly poor game either; I was expecting mediocrity and that’s exactly what I got. It’s just a shame that, alongside Killzone: Shadow Fall, Sony will have to wait until next year to find that truly must-have PS4 experience.

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24 Comments

  1. See, I’ve enjoyed Knack. Sure, it may be a simple platformer but it’s fun. Not perfect but fun.

    Don’t understand the difficulty comments I’ve seen everywhere either. I’m on hard, I’ve reached chapter 12, and nothings been particularly tricky so far.

    • I couldn’t agree more, simple but fun. I’m half way through my 3rd playthrough trying to collect last crystals I need to unlock the last 2 alternate knacks.

      • not a bad game imo as well played a few hours & enjoyed it.

    • Totally agree. Haven’t completed it once yet, but it’s because I’ve played almost since the beginning with my brother.

      Apart from the graphics, it isn’t really “next-gen” – more last-gen gameplay with ramped up special effects, proving how many different individual objects the PS4 can handle at once.

      If I was reviewing I’d say it’s a solid 7/10. It is enjoyable despite being very limited in combat options. As the article says, a standard light and heavy attack on square and triangle would make it much more in depth. However I would say it’s definitely worth picking up.

      • Yep agree with the above im on my second play through and i’ve enjoyed it .

  2. Still can’t believe this was the first game shown at the ps4 reveal. Instead of being impressed I was laughing at how naff it looked.

  3. Bizarrely I really like the look of Knack. Not to the point I’m envious its not on X1, but I would certainly grab a copy if I had a PS4 (alongside Killzone of course)

  4. Its no super rub a dub by any stretch and even though I love the PS4 and it looks stunning but part of me can’t help but feel like I should have put it on hold until watch dogs was ready.

    • I loved that super rub a dub! Wish they’d added trophies!

    • It was never going to be put on hold for a third party game that’s coming competitors as well.

  5. ooh, I don’t know! It stands head and shoulder above Fighter Within….

  6. Me and my 6 year old daughter are loving it, she’s never been bothered with any game I’ve played before so I’m over the moon that we can play together.

    • I was considering picking it up for the exact same reason; my son has recently discovered the PS3 and we’ve been playing Disney Universe and the Little Big Planet games together, and I wondered whether Knack could be something we could play on the PS4?

      • Me and my son (5 years old) has been playing Knack quite a lot now and he thinks it’s great, I find it quite fun but I won’t let it linger longer than necessary.

  7. I’ve got this for my wife for Christmas (yes, even though there’s a PS4 in my wardrobe it’s staying there until Christmas – and it is killing me).

    Wifey likes platformers and enjoys playing games together (Rayman, Guacamelee etc). KZ and BF are all well and good, but she doesn’t enjoy them. I think people forget who this game is aimed at…

    • Your last sentence is, I think, part of the problem with the game. It looks like it should be suitable for youngsters, but it’s rated a 12. I don’t know why it’s a 12 as opposed to a 7, but maybe if it was rated for that slightly younger group then it would be a bit clearer who it’s targeted at.

  8. Can’t help thinking people would look more favourably on this if it wasn’t a full price release.

    Hopefully it’ll appear on PS+ in the not too distant future, or at least significantly discounted

  9. True. I’d buy it in a flash if it was £30, but at over £50 I’m not interested.

  10. I see Knack getting panned in the Media and then see Mario 3D World being praised to the high heavens. I just don’t get it.

    The only fault I’ve found with Knack thus far is the shoehorned story, it has a vague theme of ethnic cleansing about it. Gameplay wise it has the new concept of growing through the levels that I cannot recall from a previous game. It gets 5-6

    Meanwhile Mario 3D World does nothing new, is the weakest Mario title I’ve played in ages and it gets 9-10.

    Both games are solid 8s in my book.

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