Knack is a platformer beat 'em up launch title for PlayStation 4. Although it attempts a few new things, it ultimately feels like it's all been done before.
The game stars a little fellow named Knack who is a creation of Doctor Vargas. His body is formed from a collection of relics and he possesses the skill to add more relics to his body in order to get bigger and badder. The plot revolves around a war between goblins and mankind. There are some subplots about industrialism and a long lost love but they don't really go anywhere. As far as Knack and his best friend Lucas are concerned, they have goblins and robots to beat up.
The graphics in Knack are sharp and cartoony. While playing the game, it doesn't look much better than many PlayStation 3 games. However, the cutscenes look great with well animated characters that look like they're straight out of a Pixar movie. Music is orchestral and adds even more film-quality presentation to the game. The characters are voiced very well although Knack always sounds serious even when he's little. It would have been a nice feature if his voice subtly changed depending on how big he is at the time. The sound effects as you hit enemies and collect objects are crisp and clear. Some sound effects are played through the DualShock 4's speaker which adds another dimension to the game's sound design.
Controlling Knack is easy. He runs, jumps, and fights his way through the game's many levels. Combat is simple but challenging as players must react to enemies quickly in order to survive battles with as little damage as possible. The right stick is used to dodge in various directions and attacking is done by a single button. Knack also has three super moves in his arsenal that he can unleash after he's absorbed enough sunstones. These moves are very effective and should be used strategically so that they can be saved for when things get hectic. Knack can also pick up and throw some objects which is a handy move for taking out airborne enemies. As the game progresses, battles become quite difficult and players must learn to combat effectively in order to survive. Even though the combat does get more challenging, it doesn't change much throughout the game and playing in long sessions can end up being a chore.
There are many levels to run and jump through and these add up to quite an unexpectedly long game. These levels are very linear and only involve Knack running, jumping, and fighting waves of enemies. There are hidden items but these are almost always in obvious locations. Because of this, exploration isn't really a part of the gameplay. Some parts of the game try to mix things up a bit by having the player stealthily sneak around, run away from enemies who are chasing you, or use Knack's various forms to get past obstacles. These parts are few and far between as most of the game ends up being repetitive combat.
Knack has different forms which include ice, metal, wood, and stealth. He transforms when it's appropriate to do so in the game and this is not controlled by the player. These forms help diversify the gameplay slightly by having players try not to melt while ice or catch fire while wooden. Stealth Knack can turn invisible to slip past detection lasers or guards and metal Knack is tough and magnetic. While in these forms, Knack collects more of the corresponding material to become larger as opposed to the usual relics. The gameplay is still mostly the same no matter what form Knack is in, but it does help add some variety to the experience.
Collectables in the game include gadget parts and crystal relics. A gadget is unlocked when enough gadget parts are collected for that gadget. These are very helpful in the game and add abilities such as an extra super move stock and being able to detect nearby secrets. Crystal relics are used to unlock forms of Knack that are usable in additional playthroughs of the game. They are basically costumes that alter Knack's base stats and may give him additional abilities. These treasures are found in the previously mentioned obvious locations. When a treasure is found, you can see what treasures your PlayStation Network friends have found at that location and choose to acquire one of their items instead. It pays to have friends!
There is not much replay value in Knack. Most gamers will be tired of it after one playthrough since the rewards for additional playthroughs are probably not worth the time. There are a couple of unlockable modes in the form of time attack stages and arena battles which are fun only if you want to climb leaderboards.
The main game can also be played cooperatively for some on-the-couch multiplayer fun. The second player controls Robo Knack who plays almost the same as regular Knack. He can help Knack by collecting relics and sunstones for him and even replenish his health. This is a great way to play the game (if you can find someone who wants to play it) as it takes some of the tedium out of the experience.
Knack is a pretty good game for those looking for a platformer with melee combat. Although it's presented very well, the game is held back by its linear design, repetition, and lack of replay value.
- + Simple yet challenging gameplay
- + Fairly lengthy adventure
- + Great cutscenes with well done animation and voice acting
- - Combat gets repetitive
- - Very linear levels with almost no exploration
- - Not much replay value