If you had asked me six months ago, what the first next gen game I was going to play was, my answer would not have been Knack. Although it looked fun and simple and very colourful, it may have been a platforming game I would have waited for a while to play, or never got round to picking up. It didn’t seem like a great title to launch the Playstation 4.
After playing it for a while, I have to say I stick to that original opinion. If it hadn’t been the game that came with my new console, I may not have ever got round to playing it, it’s not a game that grabs you by the balls and shows you everything awesome the next generation can do. The gameplay is quite simple, no interesting combos for attacks, just a repeated three strike combo, or a jump attack. You gain a few special attacks as well which shake things up a little at first, but the combat is a very repetitive system of dodge and strike and it doesn’t really lack any challenge.
Now I know the game is aimed at children, and it’s designed as a simple fun game to show off a little of what the console can do graphically, the same way Crash Bandicoot did for the original Playstation. Something fun and colourful for the kids to want to convince their parents to buy them the console, but it feels like its lacking something.
It’s not charm, or prettiness, because the game does have both of those. It lacks substance, the story is simple and as charming as the characters are, there isn’t a lot of growth, and some of them are downright predictable. It’s fun, but only really in small doses and after a while the repetitiveness grates on the nerves and I had to put it down.
It’s not all bad though, I imagine for a child, the game would be fun, and the characters are colourful, and growing the main character to a gargantuan size and smashing planes and buildings is one of the best parts of the game, and it does have the ability to play Co-op in a way that is very helpful for children. In Co-op mode, the second character plays as a smaller robot version of the main character, who doesn’t gain any of the new abilities the way Knack does, such as ice, or fire or stealth, so are not as good as the main player, but they do have the ability to give up their own health to heal the main character, and when they eventually die, have the ability to come back after a few seconds, without having to return to the last checkpoint.
It makes sense for a childish game to have a system like this in place, letting an adult help them while they solve the puzzles, or not being able to die while the parents play as the main character. It’s simple and good for kids, and it’s a useful idea to stop the kids from getting bored. Although it does have issues with the coop, the camera is a bit dodgy and is very stubborn in the way it only follows the main player and the not the second.
Overall, Knack isn’t a bad game, and at times it is fun to play. I really get what they were trying to do with the game, and the fact that it boasts being able to render complex graphical networks and many individually rendered objects is great. The main character, Knack, grows bigger the more relics you collect, and it looks great. It’s not just a static model of a character, each individual piece of him is apparently rendered by itself, and when you get hit and lose health, you see hundreds of the little pieces go flying across the screen, or fall to the floor around you. Hopefully it’s just a shadow of the Playstation 4’s future, and what it can do. I just feel like they missed out on a great opportunity not only to showcase the consoles capabilities but make a game with the same memorable effect as Crash Bandicoot had on the original Playstation. Who knows, maybe in 15 years’ time, Knack will be looked back on by the kids of today with the same nostalgia tinted glass I look back at Crash Bandicoot.