Knack reviewed

A couple of weeks ago I finally bought myself a PlayStation 4 after having delayed that decision until there was a bundle with at least 2 games I actually wanted to play. So now I have a PS4 with the new Infamous, Killzone, and … well, Knack. Ever since watching that game’s quicklook on Giantbomb I was in the state of “I wouldn’t mind playing Knack”.

Sadly, the actual game didn’t really get far beyond that.

Knack takes place on a fictional world where humans learnt to harness the power of so-called “artifacts” left behind by an ancient but now extinct race. The experiments of one scientist led to the creation of an intelligent being constructed out of these artifacts which is called “Knack”. Sadly there is trouble on the horizon with a greedy tycoon and a big troll army threatening the peace.

That sounds rather generic but is not all bad. Unfortunately, the characters themselves as well as the plot are really boring. In fact this was the first game for me in a really long time where I found none of the characters likeable. Knack himself is probably the most entertaining but his voice simply doesn’t fit all that well with the rest of the character.

Luckily, the rest of the main protagonist is quite nicely done. Besides having a simple health meter Knack grows and becomes more powerful by collecting artifacts throughout each level. There are also some areas of this 3D platformer where you collect ice-crystals, wood or rock that change some other properties of Knack besides his size.

Too bad, that these new abilities are used only in rather linear levels. The whole game feels kind of similar to Sonic Adventure where the whole experience always was quite on-rails. There are a handful of levels where you have to finish multiple tasks where you might find some branching: For example there are three switches in a large room and there are 3 gates, each leading to one of them. Once you hit one switch, you get back to the central room and can proceed through the next gate. These sections only last for something like 5-10 minutes each, then you are back on a straight path through the rest of the stage.

These lever puzzles are also basically the only distraction (at least during the first two thirds of the game) from wave after wave of enemies, so you might have hoped that the battle system was any good. Well, at least it is not really bad either :) You have special attacks that can for instance attack multiple enemies at once for which you have to fill up yet another bar, and the default attacks are useful enough. For me, the only negative part of that system was the dash- ability for avoiding enemy attacks … in theory … if it had a bigger radius. This becomes especially annoying during the final boss fight, which is otherwise awesome and was probably my favorite part of the game!

There are some rather nice level like when you explore ancient underground temples and mountains but esp. the generic levels are unnecessarily long as is the whole game. One or two levels left or just shorter levels would have really helped here.

Throughout the levels you can collect hidden items that (after collecting a whole bunch of them) allow you to modify some of Knack’s abilities like his health level or his outer shell. While interesting the rest of them game sadly kept me from trying to collect all of them.

Knack is definitely not a game I would recommend spending a lot of money on. The whole game feels like Sony felt obligued to ship a platformer at launch of the PS4 no matter what. For that, it is still quite enjoyable; nothing special, but also not offensively bad. If I could give an award for being mediocre, Knack would deserve it.

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