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Lifewire / Kelsey Simon
Unique main character
Fun special abilities
Appeals to younger audience
Bad camera movement
Knack is a 3D platformer with a unique main character and uncomplicated controls, but it lacks originality when it comes to plot and gameplay.
Knack is a game designed to emphasize the fun of smashing through enemies with a unique character and simple controls. But the potential of Knack is shut down fairly quickly due to the poor writing, an unoriginal plot, and the same set of enemies to kill. We played Knack on the PlayStation 4 and took time to explore its plot, gameplay, graphics, and kid-friendliness.
With the disk version of Knack, you simply insert it into your PS4. Make sure you have ample space in your device, as Knack is fairly large, but otherwise the installation process is simple. Once installed, you’ll be able to play and access the full game.
The game introduces you to the world of Knack by throwing you into a meeting between all the characters in the game. It seems the city is being attacked by goblins, and the leaders need to find a way to stop them. They argue, one man proposing the use of his large robots. But then a scientist appears and introduces his new creation: Knack. You’re thrown into playing almost immediately and must run through a course, learning how to control Knack while the leaders watch to see just what you’re capable of.
As you go, you learn Knack is unique. He is created from artifacts, small cubes, spheres, and pyramids of what look like stone and metal. To heal, you’ll pick up more artifacts. Sometimes Knack will even pick up enough pieces to transform in size, growing from a small five to six piece Knack, to one consisting of hundreds of pieces. In some chapters, too, Knack will pick up other materials to grow, such as ice, wood, or clear crystals―and the bigger Knack is, the more powerful his attacks.
After you finish the introduction course, the leaders are amazed by you, and you set out to defeat the goblins. Obviously, this is only the first chapter to the game, out of a total of thirteen. After defeating goblins you’ll find out the man who built the robots isn’t as nice as he seems and next, you’ll be fighting him and his constructs.
While Knack did one thing right―the creation of the character and his ability to change and grow―everything else about the plot is unoriginal.
While Knack did one thing right―the creation of the character and his ability to change and grow―everything else about the plot is unoriginal. Knack speaks with an absurdly deep voice, which is off-putting from the visual of the character. The cutscenes often end with poorly written one-liners which left us rolling our eyes. Sometimes characters also magically appear or seem to do something in cutscenes with no explanation of how, all to move the plot forward. While there is a plot in Knack, it isn’t anything especially creative. It feels more like a way to move gameplay forward more than anything else.
Knack is a beat ‘em up 3D platformer. As you play, the character is forced down a set path with enemies blocking the way. The gameplay is simple, and this is both a positive in some ways and a problem in others. First, the positive: There are really only four mechanics to the game―jump, attack, dodge, and special attack. It isn’t hard to master these mechanics, and in no time you’ll feel comfortable making quick dodges before rushing enemies. The mechanics are also very responsive, and there aren’t any issues with lag or communication.
On occasion, the game does introduce a new feature―like in the chapter where Knack adds crystal shards to his body and can swap between being his normally large self, to being a small almost invisible version. But besides this rare feature, nothing about the gameplay really changes.
For the first five chapters, you’ll fight almost the same enemies, with only the tiniest variance. The solution to killing them? Dodge and swing. It’s the same every time. Dodge, then swing. Sometimes swing, then dodge. Even beyond the redundant gameplay, Knack can be extremely aggravating. Knack can kill enemies in one or two hits, but enemies can kill Knack in the same.
There’s not a lot of forgiveness in the fighting. If you miss or time a dodge wrong, the enemy will take you out before you can react. It doesn’t help that the camera is fixed. You have no control over how it angles, which can be extremely frustrating because in certain fights, a better angle would make the fighting easier. We found it hard to break the instinct to want to change the angle and just play at whatever the game was set at.
The camera is fixed. You have no control over how it angles, which can be extremely frustrating because in certain fights, a better angle would make the fighting easier.
Other mechanics worth noticing are Knack’s special abilities. These are charged by smashing through yellow-gold crystals that show up in various places throughout each map. But each crystal barely charges Knack, and so you have to choose wisely about when to use Knack’s special abilities. And when you do use a special ability, you almost feel bad about it, because so few of the fights really warrant the use. Overall, Knack’s gameplay was lacking in balance and complexity, making the game fairly boring after the first two hours.
The graphics of Knack are cartoon-like, with character’s features exaggerated and limbs slightly longer than they probably should be. It suits the game well, considering Knack is marketed more toward children than adults. The visual of Knack himself is also interesting—his spiky figure almost looks like a gorilla when he is in his biggest form, and when he’s small he’s pretty adorable.
These days a PlayStation 4 can put out better graphics than what Knack has to offer. We weren’t that impressed either about the game’s visuals. The game’s settings aren’t very beautiful―at least that was how we felt until we got to Chapter Six, which for the first time in the entirety of the game, offered us more originality.
Chapter Six takes place in a locked chamber full of artifacts―the material that Knack is made of. The scenery is unique with geometric metalwork and glowing energy. Doors open with flashing lights, and enemies swing swords made of crystal. But this chapter doesn’t last long, and beyond it the setting is the same with forests and mines, and nothing really worth paying special attention to.
While we, as adults, found the gameplay simple and repetitive, a younger audience might not feel the same. The simple controls might actually be more appealing to children, and the beat-‘em-up style of the game is entertaining and fun.
The simple controls might actually be more appealing to children, and the beat ‘em up style of the game is entertaining and fun.
The game also features a co-op option, which will further appeal to kids. A friend can jump in as a silver Knack, and join in the fight. This other Knack won’t be as large, and won’t be able to use special abilities or change in shape, but he can give some of his health away to the main Knack. In this way, you can work with a friend to beat the game, adding another layer of fun. If you do have a kid who you think will enjoy Knack, be aware that there is a sequel, Knack II.
Thankfully, Knack isn’t typically an expensive game. You can find it discounted to roughly $20 at most stores, and if you’re willing to get a used version or hold out for a good sale, you can probably find it for $10.
The game consists of 13 chapters, and each chapter lasts roughly an hour, maybe longer if one is playing on the hardest difficulty level. While $20 isn’t an unreasonable amount to pay for roughly 15 hours of gameplay, there are other games one could buy for the same amount of money and get more value for the price.
Knack isn’t the first 3D platformer to take on cartoon-like graphics. Spyro has been around for a long time, and recently the Spyro Reignited Trilogy came out for the PS4. We would highly recommend this game if you enjoyed Knack. The gameplay will be more complex, but the visuals and fun nature of the game will be about the same. One might also look into Yooka-laylee, also available on the PS4. The game shares the same platformer gameplay but is visually far more appealing than Knack.
Take a look at other product reviews and shop for the best PlayStation 4 kids games available online.
Probably not worth it.
Knack’s cartoon graphics, co-op feature, and simple gameplay will probably appeal to a younger audience―but the average adult probably won’t find much about the game redeeming. The gameplay is repetitive and sometimes aggravating, the plot is cheesy and unoriginal. Knack himself, as a character, is the only truly unique feature about this game.
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