- Street Date:
- November 15th, 2013
- Reviewed by:
- Bill Braun
- Review Date:1
- December 2nd, 2013
- Game Release Year:
- Sony Computer Entertainment
- SCE Japan Studio
- ESRB Rating:
- RP (Rating Pending)
Disc version reviewed. 'Knack' is also available as a digital download, and in a combination 'Essentials' package with a DualShock 4.
'Knack,' the PS4 launch title for the "rest of the family" as described by Mark Cerny. As the PlayStation 4 was building to its release, Mark Cerny quickly became a household name for PlayStation devotees. He was introduced at the PlayStation 4 unveiling event in New York City as lead architect, and became Sony's spokesperson for the next generation gaming console. Leading up to this prestigious role it should be remembered that Mr. Cerny held a number of additional gaming titles during his career: Producer ('Sonic the Hedgehog 2'), Executive Producer ('Crash Bandicoot'), and Design Consultant ('Resistance: Fall of Man', 'Uncharted: Drake's Fortune', 'Ratchet and Clank: Tools of Destruction'), to name a few. Where he may be most recognizable for his significant contributions to the PlayStation 4 design, his gaming roots are what accommodated for his role as Gaming Director for the PlayStation 4 launch (and new IP) title – 'Knack'.
The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
Knack is both the title of the game and the main playable character. Created through scientific means, he (it) is the protector of the human race and the answer to the rebellious, war-mongering goblins. Powered and created by mystical relics, Knack can be as quaint as a small child and as menacing as a giant. But the developers of Sony's Japan Studio took this flagship new PlayStation 4 game and hindered both its creativity and gameplay by delivering an experience that was restrictive and formulaic.
There are hints at a deeper story but 'Knack' boils down to a generic adventure meant more for children than adults. Everything about 'Knack' – from the advertising to the box cover art – screams family and child friendly. And, for the most part, it is.
Controlling 'Knack' is simple. Because the camera is fixed, movement is assigned to the left stick, while the right provides a quick dash in the appropriate direction. Knack's attack ability is primarily utilized with the square face button, and he is able to jump with the cross button. He has a handful of special power-ups that combine some of the remaining face buttons, but nothing that would be considered overwhelming to accomplish. What is overwhelming is the difficulty, even when set to the lowest level. For a game that is so clearly marketed to children, the punishing nature of 'Knack' is the biggest surprise.
As mentioned, Knack's size can grow or shrink depending on the predetermined and linear path the developers have created. Some levels require Knack add to his size by consuming into his body newly available relics or materials – wood, ice crystals, metal, etc. The greater his size, the more damage he can withstand and deal. Where the cute and diminutive Knack can only manage a few direct hits from his enemies before bursting into relic dust, even the hulking version of Knack will see his health bar quickly shrink. As a result, you'll find yourself repeating sections of the game on a more-than-regular basis. 'Knack' is a brawler that seems to be unnecessarily difficult for the gamer that it is targeting.
That's not to say 'Knack' isn't fun. It certainly has its moments, just not enough of them to make it a standout game for new owners of the PlayStation 4. Playing in cooperative mode with my teenage son (unfortunately the game proved to be too difficult for my 8 and 9 year old daughters) became the de facto option and made for a less stressful experience. A second player takes on the role of Robo-Knack, but as the game does little to acknowledge this secondary character in the larger story, it comes off as being tacked-on and potentially not a part of the initial design. Robo-Knack has the ability to share his health with Knack during those desperate situations, and will regenerate after a brief waiting period to jump back into the action after being knocked out of play. This was a comfort, especially after experiencing a high number of restarts when playing the game solo.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
There is little doubt that 'Knack' is a next generation videogame. The 1080p visuals are quite impressive and it has grand ambitions to rival even the best of Disney and Pixar animations. While child-like in overall design, the characters are comically created and the colors are vibrant and pleasing to the eye.
Although the environmental variety is fairly impressive – indoor castles, underground caverns, mountainous hillsides – the level design is repetitive and boring. There was very little interactivity in the environments that could have made 'Knack' an even more powerful looking next generation title.
With 'Knack' being a new IP, I feel the developers missed out on a wonderful opportunity to make this new world stimulating and fresh. Instead, they relied on the comforts of being safe, never straying far from what one might expect from a platforming brawler.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
The game's use of DTS Digital Surround sound is nicely presented. The audio is consistently smooth between character voice-overs and intense battles, and makes full use of all channels. When Knack's giant size comes into play his footsteps are thunderous and booming. However, there is nothing exceptional or overly impressive with the audio. Again, everything about the development of 'Knack' is safe and risk-free, never fully living up to its potential. This is a world inhabited by goblins, mechanized robots, and colorful characters, yet everything is presented in a format that gamers have heard hundreds of times before.
I do appreciate the developers making use of the DualShock 4's built-in speaker. Although limited in scope, it adds a deeper level of immersion when new relics are added to Knack's size. Objects that are destroyed and pulled into Knack's body sound as if a long line of Dominoes were tipped over. This fairly simple audio technique added a three dimensional layer to an otherwise bland experience.
When all is said and done, 'Knack' offers very little replay value. After experiencing the story – whether solo or with a co-op partner – you will have seen all there is to be seen. Although numerous collectibles are scattered throughout the chapters, it may not be enough to warrant a second play through of the game.
HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?
Keeping to its promise of remote play support for the PlayStation Vita, Sony has added this same functionality to 'Knack'. Playing 'Knack' on the hand held device provides gamers with yet another option to experience this new generation of gaming. The transition from TV to Vita is seamless and works well.
The iOS companion App, 'Knack's Quest', is also available and has been designed to further the PS4 experience. Similar to 'Bejeweled', 'Knack's Quest' prompts players to match relics and other items while being timed. By completing various levels you are able to share your unlocked gadgets with 'Knack's' in-game progress by signing in to your PlayStation Network ID. Although I tested out this companion App, it did little to hold my interest.
New IPs can be a risky proposition. Add a new console into the mix and the idea becomes even more daunting. Although I applaud the developers of Japan Studio for taking this risk, 'Knack' simply was unable to live up to expectations, and its difficulty negates its possibilities as a great family title. The story was less than exciting, the gameplay was repetitive, and the entire experience felt like one big missed opportunity as a flagship game for the PlayStation 4. 'Knack' has some interesting moments, but they were short lived and never fully realized. Gamers picking up a PlayStation 4 shouldn't cross 'Knack' off their list, but they may want to start with a different title.
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