Knack is a new platformer from Mark Cerny, the mastermind behind the PlayStation 4 and games such as Crash Bandicoot and Jak & Daxter. So how does Knack feel compared to previous Sony platformers?
First and foremost Knack is a gorgeous game. It has a beautiful vivid art-style, particle effects look nice and the game is a pure eye candy to look at. When I played Knack for the first time it was quite obvious that this is an entry level next-generation platformer. It has all the characteristics that you’d expect from a game like this including interesting characters, bright colors and great platforming elements.
"Knack is a very linear game however, it doesn’t have the sense of freedom found in other games like Jak and Daxter. Just like the original Crash Bandicoot on the PSOne, you clear a level, kill enemies and fight bosses and that is how Knack plays in terms of pacing."
However, the story of the game is probably the weakest point of the presentation along with the voice acting. The game tells you a mediocre tale of Knack, a character that was created out of ancient powerful relics, discovered by a Doctor. Meanwhile an evil general named Victor is trying to find more of the powerful relics for infinite power against the goblins. Voice acting for the most part is quite good and fitting, however, Knack himself sounds way too deep for the type of character he is and it really threw me off every time he spoke.
Gameplay wise Knack is a simple game but it’s hard to master and that is an excellent thing. Just like in any standard platformers you move and traverse from chapter to chapter, kill enemies and try to get to the next main point in the storyline. Knack is a very linear game however, it doesn’t have the sense of freedom found in other games like Jak and Daxter. Just like the original Crash Bandicoot on the PSOne, you clear a level, kill enemies and fight bosses and that is how Knack plays in terms of pacing.
Knack’s gameplay shines when it comes to mastering the combat system. Depending on what difficulty you play the gameplay changes drastically. For example, playing on easy is more of a casual experience for someone that’s just interested in playing the game for experience and finishing of the main story mode. However, if you’re more of a true die-hard platforming fan that enjoys challenging gameplay then Hard Difficulty and Very Hard Difficulty is right for you. I played the game on Hard Difficulty and died countless times because I was surprised at some of the ways the enemies and react and make their moves.
"In some levels you will be playing as small Knack whose reach is not really far with his punches and his health is at a small amount. Then there will be times when you’re about 30 feet tall, have a ton of health, hit harder and you just end up annihilating everything in your path."
Knack is also able to pull off three different super moves when he has filled up his Sunstone Crystals gauge. These are yellow crystals that can be harvested from the environment simply by hitting them. Once you feel up an entire circle Knack will be able to execute a super move. There are three different super moves in the entire game and to activate them you will be able to shoot blue projectiles at three different enemies, activate a shockwave and finally a relic tornado that can be maneuvered using the analog stick.
Combat will also change depending on Knack’s overall size. In some levels you will be playing as small Knack whose reach is not really far with his punches and his health is at a small amount. Then there will be times when you’re about 30 feet tall, have a ton of health, hit harder and you just end up annihilating everything in your path.
Knack can also absorb elemental relics such as frost, wood and metal. Each element adds a new element to the combat system of Knack. For example, the frost relics give Knack a shield that basically acts as a second life-bar giving him a better chance in survival during combat. Wood relics can burn on Knack’s body to deal more damage to enemies and burn down doors to find treasure rooms.
The game also feature Arena Stages that are fun as you go through different rounds in an arena-like room with different enemy combinations every round. The only downside to the arena stages is the fact that there are only three of them.
"Knack is ultimately throwback to old-school platformers with a next generation look and great brawling, combat system mechanics. The characters are likeable and I can see how a new franchise can be born and be turned into future sequels despite the mediocre story."
Knack has such an innovative collectibles system that I thought it deserves its own section in the review. The entire game consists of 68 treasure rooms that contain different item parts and crystal relics. When you find a treasure room the chest will give Knack an item part or crystal. Item parts are used to create gadgets, once all the item parts are found the gadget is built automatically.
Each gadget has its own purpose, for example the secret detector can be used to find secret treasure rooms easier. Crystals on the other hand unlock new Knack skins that change the stats of the character. The most innovative part of this collectible system is the fact that if you have friends who have this game, you can trade parts or crystals if you managed to find the same treasure chest. This was quite a fascinating and an interesting way to create indirect single-player co-operative experience.
Knack is ultimately throwback to old-school platformers with a next generation look and great brawling, combat system mechanics. The characters are likeable and I can see how a new franchise can be born and be turned into future sequels despite the mediocre story. However, some people may be disappointed that it’s not a true next-gen game in a sense that it doesn’t offer much new to the platformers and instead focuses more on nostalgia and old-school games.
All in all though, the game never tries to do anything different and instead it manages to play safe by sticking to what defines the platforming genre. Overall, this is a gorgeous looking game that has the potential to evolve even better in sequels.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 4.
Innovative collectible system, old-school gameplay, challenging game and combat system, long single-player mode.
Mediocre story, may disappoint some gamers due to old school mechanics, main character's voice acting is horrible, not much platforming as opposed to combat.