Knack – A nice game that’s been covered in mud

Throughout my time playing games I have been a huge fan of the platform genre with the likes of Jak & Daxter, Ratchet & Clank and Spiro.  So when the first game revealed for the next-gen was seemingly an addition to this category, I found it very hard not to get excited. Since then I have seen Knack dragged through the mud by players and reviewers alike. The thing is, I actually really liked Knack and the more bad reviews I read, the more I want to defend it. So am I just blinded by nostalgia and a bias towards this genre, or is it really not as bad as people make it out to be?

Knack is classified as a platformer/beat ‘em up but is really more of the latter. Most of the game isn’t spent navigating obstacles, but rather beating up everything you come into contact with. The game seems to remember every now and again that it probably should do some platforming and, to its credit, these sections are quite fun, though they often don’t present a real challenge at all. Arguably the USP of Knack is the main character’s ability to grow in size and this mechanic is very well done. The world’s electric devices are all powered by items called ‘relics’, artefacts that have been left behind by some older and more advanced race. As Knack is such an artefact, he has the ability to absorb relics to grow in size. Growing will allow Knack to take on larger enemies and deal with many different obstacles.

The real magic of Knack comes in the accomplishment factor. It is easy in many games to breeze though all of the enemies only to die by falling off a ledge, or some other minimal event. But the biggest threat in Knack comes from the bad guys themselves, and that’s how it’s supposed to be right? Knack can be killed very easily, normally taking only a couple of hits. While many people have criticised this, defeating a group of enemies now becomes a complex task to overcome. I often found myself planning what I was going to do before I charged in and felt genuinely rewarded when I was able to pull off some fast moves and dispatch a large group. But, this does of course come with its disadvantages. Having such low life means that practically any enemy will kill you quickly, whether they are a tiny spider or a mighty Ork. This is generally balanced out by Knack growing in size as the mission progresses, but it still leaves each enemy difficult to face, seemingly without measure. Occasionally you will encounter smaller foes when Knack has grown and you will be able to swat them out of the way. These moments gave me a sense of scale about how big Knack really was and the power I was wielding, it was just a shame that these parts were short and normally quick to complete.

One of the areas where Knack comes across as very vanilla is the story. While not bad, the idea of fighting goblins and people betraying some other people to get some big prize is just a little overdone. The cut scenes are well made and the cartoonish graphics provide a different feel to many hyper realistic graphics that are included in other games. Knack’s ability to stay in my good books does fade however, when characters react almost without reason and plots just seem to occur without any real background. Not to spoil anything, but a couple of people really hate Knack in the game, but I’m sure that it could all be solved if they just asked him to help. The story kind of claws itself back toward the end, but the damage has already been done.

So to sum it all up, I liked Knack. It was endearing and rewarding enough to warrant me finishing it and the mechanics behind some of the features were genuinely fun to use. I hope that they keep this series going but only if they have a real think about how they can take Knack in a different direction. I disapprove of the crap that it has received in the industry and even though we may look back in 6 years and regard it as ‘that crap launch game’, it is still a game that looks a lot better than many others and with a lack of fun platform games on the ‘big boy’ consoles, it was a welcome intro to my PS4.

Developer: SCE Japan Studio
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Platform: PS4
Genre: Platform, Beat ‘em up
Player Modes: Single Player, Two Player Split Screen