Story: Knack opens up with a simple plot that expands into a really incredible story which is solid and easy to absorb. Goblins are attacking human settlements, and your roster of characters must find out why. The dark ones who play the role of antagonist alternates between two forces throughout the title, one being the goblin menace race who holds a grudge against humanity after the crystal wars of the past and the other being the billionaire science zealot who wants to use the power of an ancient technology called the relics to control the world (in the guise of doing it for our own good). There’s also a third party involved which are the guardians of the relics and their technological secrets. The character you play as is Knack who is a creation of the good doctor based on the technology of those same ancient relics. He is a being brought into consciousness who is capable of becoming larger by bringing more objects into his physical dominion which almost resembles a mastery of magnetism.
Gameplay: Knack has been described by friends of mine as being ‘deceivingly difficult’ and that is absolutely the case. Players won’t expect what’s coming to them when they pop in Knack and rock either Normal or Hard mode and are met with enemies that kill them in 1-3 hits regardless of how minor they are in the game-world and also regardless of how easy they are for Knack to kill.
This unexpected difficulty forces the player to use skill rather than repetition to beat this game. It’s a good kind of frustration the player starts feeling, and it stirs up emotions the way retro gaming did inspiring the player to do better and better with each attempt.
You can’t just beat Knack if you’re horrible at it, so it’s more of an actual game than many “accessible” story-driven narratives that have released over the past decade disguised as video games with little to no legitimate difficulty at all. With a game like Knack you’ll get better at it or you won’t pass it, with one exception thrown in as a sort of life-raft / loophole for anybody completely struggling to master the game’s mechanics. I’m talking about the relationship between Sun Energy and Checkpoints.
At first, the checkpoints often don’t seem fair. Players might wonder why they have to fight smaller enemies over and over when they made it to a boss fight. But I figured out why. It’s because the Sun Energy (yellow magic stuff) is there in a reasonable supply. So say if a player gets stuck in the game, they would just die over and over on purpose while collecting and not using the Sun Energy. Then when the player has obtained the maximum amount of Sun Energy that they can carry the player will fight their way to the part that they were stuck at, then unleash all of their Sun Energy attacks and destroy whatever had them stuck. This still requires skill on the player’s part because Knack can’t hold enough Sun Energy to destroy everything with it, but just enough to give you a slight edge over the parts you found most difficult.
In this sense, the checkpoints are placed according to progression in the game and how much Sun Energy is available at any given time as a way to sacrifice the convenience of the player starting at the Boss every time in order to prevent them from getting permanently stuck on a difficult gameplay moment they cannot pass. It makes sense, and it works. Why should you have to reset the entire game just to have a fair amount of Sun Energy? The solution they came up with is seamless and keeps this game fun while still as challenging as retro games used to be.
Some additional notes on gameplay features that I found very interesting: When finding parts in the game to build up certain items such as the Transmuter which helps you gain health / size with relics alongside Sun Energy when near death in battle, the Time Dilator which can slow down time allowing Knack to bust some moves on enemies without taking damage until real-time resumes, the Combo Meter part which enables a higher attack strength as well as 8 hit combo while not taking damage, the Harvester which grants Sun Energy stones from defeated enemies, and more – players are able to compare with what parts their PlayStation Network friends have found and decide if they want to keep what the game has given them or take what their friends have found in place of this instead. This adds a layer of interactivity with friends while also allowing a more diverse way of collecting up and building these additional abilities rather than the humdrum flow seen in most other games.
Graphics / Art Direction: Graphically Knack is like a Pixar movie. It’s been criticized for supposedly not being top of the line, pushing the boundaries of the industry resolution – but even without being bleeding edge Knack manages to look beautiful. The presentation and art direction of this game are very well done, but there are a few moments here and there where textures and polygons are not 100% polished (maybe more like 85-90% occasionally). That being said, the game clearly took a major focus on Gameplay and barely sacrificed if at all on Graphics so it’s nothing worth complaining about in a 3D Platformer that offers as much enjoyment as Knack.
Characters / Enemies: The many characters of Knack all feel full of life and purpose. Each with their own psychology fully fleshed out throughout the game’s story, the characters of the game come together sometimes in an uneasy truce to accomplish an acceptable outcome for the greater good. The enemies feel equally deep and defined. As you proceed through the stages of the game’s healthy amount of chapters the weapons and artificial intelligence seen by your adversaries will always grow increasingly more difficult. Much like an old school retro game, players are tasked with memorizing the way they must react to each stage in order to move forward. This will produce a lot of dying but gives a huge accomplishing feeling as these characters are eventually overcome by Knack and his crew of unlikely heroes.
Replay Value: Good – Knack is a game that can be played more than once for a few different reasons. The length of the game is good, and if players run through it on hard mode they will have a good amount of gaming in front of them, perhaps enough to say they’re done afterwards. The experience in one play-through is a good one. However, there are also upgrades beyond that of the ones described above which may require more than one play-through to really strive for, becoming Dark Knack, Brittle Knack, Diamond Knack, Sunstone Knack, and Vampire Knack for example. These high-end crystal versions of Knack (each with their own unique abilities and characteristics) are shown as options alongside other upgrades while finding parts to items with black backgrounds instead of white and will change the game’s experience drastically once they are unlocked. Playing the game over to see what each are like as well as the set of trophies the game offers give this game a good amount of replay value.
Engine Performance: Good – At a few moments in the beginning of the game the frame rate slowed down when a lot of things were happening at once, but not enough to harm the experience. This only occurred during a couple parts of the game at an early point in the story and then once again later on. Everything else in terms of physics and gameplay ran smooth the entire time throughout the game and kept the impression that you were witnessing a living world at play.
I have many positive things to say about Knack but at the heart of its core one thing must be respected. Knack is a pure 3D Platformer and defines the next-generation of its genre without the need for stealing elements from shooter or action games. Knack accomplishes a complete and fun experience with simply the mechanics of a 3D Platformer and does well to show off the graphical fidelity that can be accomplished with the PlayStation 4. Artistically this game is vibrant and colorful. Story-wise it’s interesting and yet universal for a wide spectrum of ages and personalities to find enjoyable. But most importantly the gameplay of Knack brings back the feel of old school gaming in a new school format of much higher quality than ever before made possible. Japan Studio, Mark Cerny, and Sony have put together what I consider to be the best 3D Platformer out right now.
Overall Score: 10/10
RGN Rating: Diamond Game
Developers: SCE Japan Studio, Mark Cerny
Available On: PlayStation 4
Review Copy Info- This game was purchased by RealGamerNewz for the purpose of this review.