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Knack


22:0410/12/2013Posted by Chris MorellOne Comment

Easily the most child-friendly of the PlayStation 4’s launch line-up, Knack presents a size-switching tale of relics and goblins. There’s no denying the bright colours and next-gen sheen that make the game an attractive proposition for early adopters, especially those tired of the run and gun shenanigans of Killzone: Shadow Fall. That said, there’s no replacement for great gameplay, which is sadly where Knack fails to impress beyond a handful of highlights.

Knack himself is a small golem built from a number of relics, with the power to grow to enormous size as he attains new fragments. As humanity’s best chance to prevent the attacking goblin army, he’ll encounter sword-swinging foes, explosive insects and a range of bland robots all needing to be smashed before he can reach his goal. The plot involves one notable twist that you’ll see coming a mile off given its build-up, and the rest is so light-hearted that the stakes never seem all that high.

The story might not be up to much, but at least it’s an accessible romp. You’ll run, smash foes and walls, dodge incoming blows and… that’s just about it. Some stages mix up the formula slightly, granting new powers (stealth Knack can slip through lasers but is incredibly weak, for example) and pitting you against environmental hurdles, but the game still suffers from a severe lack of variety. Sure, there are items to collect and sunstones offer a limited number of super moves, but it’s tough to play Knack for hours without beginning to glaze over. It’s best enjoyed in short bursts when you fancy some pretty yet mindless frolics.

It’s more in line with Crash Bandicoot than Jak and Daxter with its linear design and lack of open world. It’s not nearly as much fun though, and while the game has clearly been marketed towards kids, Knack’s vulnerability and some questionable checkpoints can lead to frustration. There’s a pacing issue here too, with some sections (industrial or cavernous as they so often are) dragging on for far longer than they ideally should. You’ll at least be getting an adventure with some length, plus the option of a second player in the form of Robo Knack.

The hero’s ability to increase in size gradually is his greatest party trick. He becomes more powerful with a longer health bar as he begins to grow, though the game is very choosy about how and when that happens. It’s frustrating to be merrily collecting relics for a more powerful Knack only to lose them when unlocking a door – and just about everything in the world seems to run on relics. At times it can kill the sense of progression dead, destroying the flow of your success and subsequent relic rewards. Getting huge and rampaging through town – pummelling buildings for hidden parts – shows Knack at its most enjoyable, but then running around in tiny form and fighting bug-like enemies however, does not.

As nice as the lands are, there’s an undeniable sense that you’ve seen it all after the game’s opening act. As an adventure it’s simply too mundane to hold the attention of the seasoned gamer, including those looking for something a little bit different. The bright and cartoonish vibe will certainly gel with its target audience, plus it’s great to see local co-op included, allowing two siblings to dive into their shiny new console without argument.

While not devoid of charm and a solid visual showcase for the PlayStation 4, Knack is best described as a PSOne title in shiny modern clothing. Moving from area to area and fighting the hordes ad nauseam becomes an all too dull task, especially when moments begging for new mechanics (stealthy gameplay was an obvious choice) pass on by and enemies constantly react to your presence in the same way. This simply can’t come recommended at full retail price, but may be worth picking up for a lazy weekend later on during a sale. Knack shows promise, but needs to grow in more than stature if he hopes to do well in the future.

This article is based on a review copy provided by Sony.

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One Comment »

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