The PS4 has arrived, and it has a plethora of games. One of those titles is Knack, a brawling platformer that also shows off how powerful the PS4 truly is. This makes sense as the man behind Knack is none other than Mark Cerny, architect of the PS4 itself. In making Knack, Cerny explained the game as “a solid second purchase”. While they may have done that, Knack may also go down as an example as to why it’s important to have the mind sight of being a “first purchase” instead.
Knack is a golem made up of hundreds to thousands of tiny blocks called relics. Relics act as the energy supply of this world. Knack is a creation of Doctor Vargas, created as a means of protection for him and his team. Knack can combine with relics or other objects to make himself bigger and stronger. As Knack starts, hordes of goblins have attacked various human settlements. Along with the Doctor and his team, as Knack you must stop the horde and everything else that gets in your way to save the human race.
When tackling the story of Knack, you have to remember this at all times: it’s a cartoon. It’s not going to tug at your heartstrings, it’s not going to talk to you on a philosophical level, and it’s not a gritty true to life story. What you do get with Knack is a story that’s funny and with it’s own charm. The world of Knack, full of goblins, robots, and very interesting tech, was a place that’s fun to interact with. While not the greatest of tales, Knack’s story is humorous and driven enough that you’ll at least want to see what comes next.
A credit Knack must be given is its surprisingly deep characters. Not saying you’ll be drawing comparisons between Doctor Vargas and Walter White, but for a game meant for kids, the characters have some real personalities. For instance, it would have been easy to write Doctor Vargas as the good guy mentor of Knack. An all-wise character who only touts about goodness and is only there to help the main character walk the pace of light. However, Dr. Vargas isn’t like that. Yes he’s smart and good, but he’s also impetuous and gets the crew into trouble more than once. Even better, the other characters get upset and the problem is addressed. That’s true for all the characters here, and it’s refreshing that the attempt is made to give these characters personalities instead of making them all clichés. The only downside to this however is Knack himself, who is actually lacking in the personality department. Mainly this is due to the character fully believing in his role of being a tool for Dr. Vargas. This doesn’t hurt the story too much, although it would have been nice to have a protagonist with a little more personality.
The gameplay focuses around two things in Knack. First is collecting Relics to make Knack grow. In the beginning of each level, Knack is very diminutive compared to the enemies. Knack has to be careful not to get hit, as he’s very weak, and his attacks don’t do much damage. However, as the level continues and you as you get more and more pieces, Knack will grow. As he does his attacks, HP, and defense all get better. On top of that, the proportions between the enemies and Knack change too. Those enemies who were killing you over and over are now insects to you, and can be easily smashed. This reward for making it far into the level is where Knack truly shines, as that victory you feel for becoming superior to your enemies feels wonderful.
You may have noticed we said, “Die over and over”. That’s because Knack is not an easy kid’s game. In fact, it’s one of the most difficult games out on the PS4. This is largely thanks to the enemies in Knack. The enemies here all have their very own unique attacks, movements, and timing. These attacks will absolutely drain your HP, and will kill Knack if you think this will be a button-mashing affair. In order to survive it’s going to take some trial and error. When you encounter a new enemy, don’t be surprised if it takes you out a few times before you can beat it. This difficulty is very akin to Dark Souls, where the difficulty helps you become better at the game. On top of that, the joy you get from accomplishing and finishing a segment makes you want to keep playing.
Knack’s fantastic enemy design and strategies necessary to beat them make up the second key to Knack’s game play. It’s the most enjoyable I’ve experience on a brawling platformer in recent memory, and it makes Knack a fun experience.
The only downside is there’s really not much more to it when it comes to gameplay. This is a tremendous shame as there is a lot you can do with a character whose special ability is to separate into a million pieces – why not utilize his ability in some form of a puzzle? Speaking of puzzles, don’t expect too much in that department. In fact, the puzzles in Knack are very much a disappointment and it seems like the designers didn’t really put too much thoughts into them. For instance, lasers are bypassed just by pressing triangle, walking two feet, and pressing triangle again. This is too easy, especially in a game that’s quite challenging.
Knack is very much a testament to the power that the PS4 truly has. While graphically it’s not lighting the world on fire, it does however look nice. It’s very much in the style of a claymation movie, and it’s a look that helps Knack stand out against the competition. The impressive part (as well as the one people will take for granted) is the simple fact that when you see Knack, you’re looking at a mass of several thousand objects that form this one character. This would have slowed previous systems to a crawl, but not so with PS4. The closest it ever comes to slowing down is the final boss battle, and that’s only because there are well over several million objects on the screen at that point.
As for the music, this is sadly Knack’s weakest area. For the most part, it feels very generic and phoned in. It’s not very memorable, and it fails to add anything to the moment or to the game itself. I will however give credit to the voice actors as they do a good job with their characters, and you can tell they had fun with their roles.
Knack also features a two player co-op mode that allows the second player to drop in or out of the game at anytime. The second player controls a shiny robot called Robo Knack. Robo Knack functions similarly to Knack except he also has the ability to donate parts to Knack in addition to healing Knack by pressing the triangle button on the second DualShock 4 controller. In addition, if you own a PS Vita, you can take advantage of the game’s Remote Play, which works in conjunction with the two player co-op mode.
Knack also has a fair bit of replay value for completionists. Hidden are jewels and pieces of gadgets throughout all of Knack’s 13 chapters. The gadgets (when assembled) give you unique benefits like a combo meter or a radar to sense treasure (allowing you to gain health from sunstones) and so much more. The various jewels (When you unlock enough of them) allow access to different suits that give Knack new abilities. On top of all this and several levels of difficulty, Knack also has some very attainable trophies as well. However, when all of this is achieved, there is very little reason to revisit Knack.
Knack had a lot of potential, and still does. There was a lot they could have done, but ultimately didn’t. However, the game we do have is very fun. The combat is challenging and requires a fair bit of strategy. Plus, the story is very goofy and fun, which is a very welcome addition when compared to other next-gen launch games. Knack may not have lived up to its full potential, but it’s still an entertaining addition to your PS4 library and one that every PS4 owners should try.