Knack, a maligned and misunderstood launch title for the PS4. Don’t believe the hate.
In the run up to the birth of the Playstation 4 exclusives were thin on the ground, the Sony machine offered up Knack as an innovative platformer, a launch title to appeal across generations of players. Early feedback was fairly unenthused, not sure how groundbreaking people thought it would be, but apparently Knack wasn’t cutting the mustard. Well, I disagree.
Knack is a new IP from stalwart Mark Cerny, a story of conflict between humans and Goblins, where the hero of the hour is a cute automaton, Knack. Knack is unusual, his body is a morass of floating parts a combination of game world ‘relics’ harvested from chests and combat through the game, the more relics Knack collects, the bigger he gets. The transformation is fluid and the graphical effect particularly impressive, when you look closer the physics of this body are nicely realised. Also the bigger he gets the meaner he looks, so when you do give up your relics to solve a puzzle and find yourself dropped back to the three foot tall Knack the the game style changes. In later levels there are other elements brought into play, such as burning wood chunks which give Knack some extra bite as they burn off.
At its heart the game is a fairly old school platformer, the world is well laid out, levels are nicely designed and the enemies are suitably predictable, although dialling it up to hard and getting past the soft intro levels things soon move up a gear or two. Many people will have taken the initial reviews of Knack at face value, writing it off as a limited experience or a game aimed at the younger generations, as somebody that has seen his style of game many times I’m happy to report it is a damn sight better than we were lead to believe.
Controls are fluid and intuitive, the mechanics are forgiving if you hit a struggle as collectibles are gathered each time you die, so that after a few attempts you can clear that stubborn area with a special move. The game was shouted out as being repetitive, but then most games are, Knack has a range of melee and special attacks which will need to be brought to bear on a wide array of enemies. Again, playing on hard you will find that timing and strategy will be key to ensure hits are landed without taking damage.
Being a family friendly title Knack also offers an excellent co~op solution for gamers that have younger assistants as their backseat drivers. Fire up the second controller and that player gets to tag along with a small version of Knack, if they drop off the screen they pop back on the screen without cost. There is also an asynchronous nod to some co-op aspects, opening chests in game delivers a loot drop, usually a part of a number of gadgets that you can build to enhance the game. Combo meters, time slowing down, extra social moves are just a few.
The clever bit is that, when you open the chest you are offered the choice of a part that one of your friends found in their game at the same chest. This adds a great way to concentrate on a particular item if the offered article doesn’t suit you.
There is also a limited iOS / Android companion app that offers the chance to bank some extra gadget pieces offline and send them to your PS profile. On the downside I find connecting to the PSN side fails a lot, but the positive is the chance to score a pile of extra gadget pieces fairly quickly.
In a nutshell, every time I fire it up I marvel at the crisp visuals, and get sucked in by the subtlety of its simple appearance, not to mention the draw of exploring that next new level regardless of the time. I’m also looking forward to revisiting some of the levels with updated, enhanced and unlock versions of Knack that will make the experience more interesting.
It’s quite simple really. Knack, launch title, I love it.