With the new consoles launching, there really haven’t been many new IPs. Most of the launch titles that have come out are from existing series. The one new title for the PlayStation 4 happens to be Knack, the mysterious new title from SCE Japan Studio and PS4 architect Mark Cerny. Will this new IP be a system seller for the PS4 or is this one a dud?
Very little was known about Knack when it first debuted at the PlayStation 4 reveal show, all people really knew was that you played this robotic looking thing that can grow and shrink in size. In fact, it looks a lot like something like Jak and Daxter or Ratchet and Clank. Now if only the game could live up to those heights.
Knack is different than a traditional platformer which is what everyone sort of thought this game was going to be in the beginning. Knack is more like the Lego games than anything else which itself isn’t a bad thing considering how successful those games are. Knack has a special ability which allows him to collect relics to grow in size and become far more powerful or shrink in size if need be to get through tiny spaces. The scale of this power is one of Knack’s greatest strengths as there is really a huge difference between being big vs. being small. Knack can take more damage and deal more damage when he is large and even has a longer reach. It’s the transition between these that doesn’t go so well.
With a game like Knack, you would think that growing and shrinking would be up to the player and that the player would be able to play the game the way they want to in the best way possible for them. Very rarely is this actually the case with Knack, the game is designed to be played a certain way and it doesn’t give you a lot of room to do things the way you want to. Most of the time, the developers make you trade in your relics to open a door at the end of a level or give you a big chest when there’s a big boss fight upcoming. This same problem applies when Knack absorbs different materials like ice, these materials are only available when the situation calls for it, not just because. There are also alternate versions of Knack to add replay value but, it didn’t really give me the incentive to go baack and play again.
The enemies are a surprising bright spot in Knack. There are numerous types of creative enemies that attack in loads of different ways that all move around in different patterns and really make it difficult on you when there are a cluster of different types of enemies. Make no mistake, while this is a family game, it does become difficult at some points and frustrating with some enemies getting one-hit kills and others with shields. It’s definitely great to see different enemies rather than the pallet swaps in most games.
I really don’t understand why this game is called a platformer, I’d much rather call it a brawler than that. There aren’t many environmental challenges or anything like that to speak of and you’re really just fighting your way through the level to the end, not exploring different routes or anything. Yes, there are collectibles and things like that but, at its core, this game is just point A to point B with little in between. It really feels mindless.
There are also short cutscenes which serve little purpose other than to take away from gameplay you could be playing. Even the main cutscenes would be better left out, the story just isn’t anything spectacular. The whole plot is to fight off goblins from fighting back after kicking them out of the cities. Why you ask? Because they said so. There’s no real reason why the humans are supposed to be the protagonists and the goblins are supposed to be antagonists other than going with a traditional way of thinking. The story doesn’t fill these plot holes and I doubt it would matter if they did, the story just isn’t good.
It’s hard to say what I feel about Knack. It almost feels unfinished, it feels like I’m playing one part of a bigger game yet, that’s the whole game. For $60, I need more value for my dollar and this just doesn’t give me that. I could see it doing better as a $30 budget title but, to ask full retail for this is just too much. Knack has a lot of decent ideas but, eventually falls flat with how little control is given to the user on how to play the game. The PlayStation 4 is capable of much more than what we’ve been shown here.
A copy of this game was provided by Sony Computer Entertainment Canada to FYIG for review purposes.