Sunday, October 5, 2014


When the PlayStation 4 was going to come out, one of the games announced for its launch lineup was a new IP called Knack. This was a game that caught my interest, mainly due to its concept and the promise of Katamari-style gameplay (I even played a demo at a recent Comic-Con). After recently receiving a PS4 for my birthday, I went with my brother to buy a few games to play on it. However, when Knack came up, the store clerk offered up a used copy of the game, in case I didn’t like it, due to the general consensus of the gameplay. Taking them up on the offer, I tried to play as much of the game as I could within the time that my schoolwork would allow; needless to say, while I did find it interesting at first, I ended up returning the game after all.

Humans are at war with goblins, and a group of people have gathered to figure out how to stop the goblins after they invade a human city. While a billionaire named Viktor offers up his security robots as protection, a scientist named Dr. Vargas reveals that he has been working on an experiment named Knack, a being made up of relics (used by humans and goblins alike) that can increase in size by absorbing more. After Dr. Vargas demonstrates Knack’s capabilities, at which point Knack reveals himself to be sentient, it is decided that Knack would assist in fighting back against the goblins. After a raid on a goblin village in search of answers, it is revealed that there’s more to the goblin attacks than the humans think.

The introduction of Knack.

I’m not sure I can say much about the story, mainly since I got to somewhere past the halfway point before I stopped playing, but from what I saw of it, it wasn’t terribly written. The voice acting was also actually pretty good and the music well-composed, so it gets praise from me in those departments. The graphics are also really amazing, as the more cartoonish art style allowed the characters a wide range of emotion and they didn’t clash at all with anything more realistically rendered. Another thing that impresses me about the game is how it uses features of the PS4 to its advantage, primarily the use of the DualShock 4’s built-in speaker; whenever Knack absorbs relics or anything else into his body (more on that later), sound not only comes from the TV speakers, but also the speaker in the controller, creating more of a sense of immersion (though admittedly I was weirded out at first by hearing sounds from my controller, as I wasn’t quite used to that and I had forgotten about that feature).

The gameplay itself is pretty simple, though this isn’t always a bad thing. The camera is fixed, but Knack is able to absorb relics (and eventually other objects) into his body to grow bigger, giving the game sort of a Katamari Damacy feel, and smashing Sunstones grants the ability to take down groups of enemies more easily depending on what move (of three) is selected; the right analog stick can also be used for a quick dodge, much like in God of War. At certain points in the game, Knack can also grow in size by absorbing other elements into his body, such as ice or wood, in order to gain an advantage during that section.

Knack can eventually absorb other elements, among them ice.

There’re also hidden secrets you can find within a level, often in the form of Sunstones, relics and other absorbable items, or chests that contain collectible items which can be combined to receive some gameplay benefits. These can range from absorbing more Sunstone energy than normal to a Combo Meter and even special Knack skins that have their own special quirks. These hidden items, particularly the chests, can provide some amount of replay value, and, once collected, the different Knacks can create a challenge on multiple playthroughs.

However, what ultimately led me to stop playing was that, after a while, it felt like the gameplay was getting a bit repetitive. While there was some amount of variety present, it seemed a little sparse as most levels feel kind of the same, with your options being simply to punch enemies when you have too little or no Sunstone energy left to pull off special moves. When you die, you do keep whatever Sunstone energy you had before, but filling up your energy can take a while, with each special move taking up one section of it, and, sometimes, dying after using some of it can feel like a waste. Otherwise, a level can often feel like long stretches of doing the same things over and over again, with little variation, and can at times feel like padding. This got to the point to where I personally was drawing comparisons to Blinx: The Time Sweeper in terms of its repetitiveness (though Knack isn’t quite as repetitive as Blinx, it is certainly a far cry from that of the disaster that is Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I Don’t Know!).

A typical goblin encounter.

Knack isn’t that bad of a game, all things considered, but it can feel repetitive after a while if you don’t take enough breaks from it during normal play. Though I didn’t end up completing the game, I would still recommend that people give this one a shot if they don’t feel like playing a more hardcore game (of which there are plenty) on their new system. The graphics are amazing for what they are, there is some enjoyment to be found in some of the gameplay, and it does a good job showing what the PS4 is capable of. I will likely return to this game sometime in the future to get some closure on the story, as well as to see if I can’t make one thing from the hidden chests, but it probably won’t be immediate.

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