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Review

Knack Review

  • Game release: November 15, 2013
  • Reviewed: November 13, 2013
  • PS4
Jeremy Jayne on Google+

Falling to pieces.

by

Mercy is not part of Knack's vocabulary. He happily uppercuts a defeated enemy into a steaming lake of molten lava and flings an aircraft by its tail into the unforgiving ground. And don't believe for a second that he sheds a single tear for the pilot engulfed in the flaming wreckage; Knack doesn't let sentimentality distract him from a good fight. The only thing he desires more than brutal destruction is finding creative ways to exterminate his many foes. At least that's how the cutscenes play out. When you're given control, Knack mindlessly punches his way through corridor after corridor of enemies, and you're left wondering why Knack gets to have so much more fun than you do.

Oppression is the theme that binds Knack's overarching narrative together. Goblins have been forced from their lands by the imperialistic humans, and after surviving in the wastelands for generations, they finally have the power to mount a rebellion. Goblins aren't the only creatures who have to deal with oppression. Knack was created by a benevolent doctor who has found a way to turn ancient relics into a sentient being. The philosophical implications of this discovery flip the very notion of life on its head. As Knack muses about the nature of love during a quiet cutscene, you realize that, like Frankenstein's monster, he is capable of self-reflection and poignant observations. And yet, he is treated like a weapon. Does he deserve to be viewed as an equal even though he was birthed through alchemical experimentation? Such ruminations are glossed over. Instead of realizing his humanity, Knack usually acts like a meathead, cracking his knuckles while he waits for his next fight.

Even Knack can appreciate fine art.

Instead of realizing his humanity, Knack usually acts like a meathead, cracking his knuckles while he waits for his next fight.

Relying exclusively on combat isn't inherently bad. There are plenty of games that slowly build on their fighting mechanics and provide enough twists and detours to keep you riveted. However, Knack's combat lacks the necessary depth to captivate your senses. The core problems stem from your meager repertoire. Knack has only five ways to attack the many enemies who confront him, and you learn every one of these moves in the opening tutorial. Three of these attacks--a whirlwind, a projectile blast, and a shock wave--serve as special powers that can be activated only when you collect enough sunstones. Another, your jump attack, propels you toward your enemy as a wrecking ball. But because both you and your enemy recoil when contact is made, you can't use this as the setup for your combos. Which leaves you with the standard punch. So you punch, and punch, and punch some more, for that is how victory is achieved in Knack.

There is weight behind your attacks that makes you understand the pain you're causing, and slow-motion finishers hammer home just how strong Knack is. But solid mechanics mean nothing alone. Because there is such little variance between fights, you're quickly lulled into the bored stupor of predictability. Knack absorbs relics into his body, which allows him to grow from a pint-size pet into a hulking monstrosity. Remember when a mere goblin took three hits to kill? Well laugh at those miniscule fools as you plow through them without breaking a sweat. Behold Knack, destroyer of goblins, devourer of worlds! Sounds pretty amazing, no? No is right. As you get bigger, so too do your enemies, so there's no difference in how fights play out. You still just punch your way to success and perform the weakest double jump known to games, only now you're fighting tanks instead of men.

There may be a red carpet, but this is hardly an event.

During a moment of enlightenment, Knack realizes that his ever-changing body can be composed of more diverse parts than just relics. Ice, wood, and other materials automatically get pulled into the vacuum of your body in certain levels, shifting your appearance from runic golem to elemental beast. But said changes are only skin deep. Sure, a flaming arrow may melt your icy heart, so you can lose your outer shell that serves as a shield, but there's no mechanical difference between normal Knack and his earthy counterpart. Still, Knack does occassionally introduce ideas that hint at a real evolution. For instance, in some levels, you have a crystalline body, which initializes Stealth Knack. It's finally time for some real variety, right? Not quite. With the tap of a button, Knack can walk through the laser beams that serve as a high-tech security system. But enemies can still see you, even though you're invisible. It's hard to stifle a laugh when the doctor says, "No more sneaking around" after an enemy shoots at you, as if sneaking was ever an option.

So you punch, and punch, and punch some more, for that is how victory is achieved in Knack.

There are 13 chapters in Knack, and every one of them plays out in the same tired manner. You start out small, gradually build your size until you're huge, and then arbitrarily shrink back down when the chapter wraps up. There's always a convenient excuse for this transformation. How else could Knack fit in a biplane if he doesn't lose his precious relics? And then you start the whole cycle all over again. In the beginning of the eighth chapter, the doctor plainly states that you must grow as large as possible, as if we somehow missed the pattern that has been cemented from the onset.

If you're craving exploration, there are opportunities to veer slightly off the main path if you have sharp eyes. Weak walls can be knocked down to find extra relics and sunstones, along with collectible treasures that imbue Knack with new abilities. There are tons of collectibles strewn throughout Knack's expansive worlds, but these pieces are worthless on their own. If you're lucky enough to complete a set, you get a perk that gives you a passive ability. It wasn't until I reached the ninth chapter that I completed my first gadget, more than eight hours into my adventure. And what did I receive after all that effort? Enemies released a small amount of sunstone power when defeated. Don't expect these collectibles to inject the diversity Knack so desperately needs.

Just look at that Knack punch.

It's hard to stifle a laugh when the doctor says, "No more sneaking around" after an enemy shoots at you, as if sneaking was ever an option.

The most baffling part of Knack is its surprisingly high difficulty. Considering the cartoony artistic design and simple mechanics, you might assume that this game would be a cakewalk. But after you die a half-dozen times in the tutorial, that belief will be banished from your mind. When Knack is in his smallest form, he dies from just one or two attacks, and can stand only a couple more when he's bigger. So death comes frequently. If you're vigilant, you can avoid enemy advances by performing well-timed rolls, but even these should be used with caution. You're not invincible when rolling, so you can't abuse this maneuver. Now I love a good challenge, but dying is an annoyance in Knack because the combat sequences aren't interesting enough to play through once, let alone multiple times. There is a cooperative mode if you need a helping hand or want to offer one. Knack is as vulnerable as ever, but the second player controls Robo Knack who respawns after dying. Sadly, the action isn't any more fun when you're dragging a friend along for the ride.

Knack's downfall is that it focuses entirely on combat, but doesn't offer enough variety or depth within its system to compel you onward. Any early thoughts you may have that there must be more to the punch-punch-repeat action than meets the eye are banished once you plow through hours of the same basic sequences. And even Knack's few attempts at diversity are merely competent. The occasional platforming scenario lacks the joy of movement so necessary for jumping to be engaging, and the platform placement doesn't require any cleverness to surpass. There's not one element of Knack to rally around, to excite you. And without that special something, Knack crumbles just like its piecemeal protagonist.

The Good
Well-realized environments that you want to exist in
The Bad
Little variety to distract from the nonstop fighting
Even enlarging Knack or turning him invisible doesn't change the action
Artificial environments and enemy interactions
Tiresome combat with a meager move set
4
Poor
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

/ Staff

Colorful adventures are where Tom wishes he could spend just about all of his gaming time. Tom played through a finished build of the game and it took roughly 10 hours.

Discussion

1043 comments
Trev9421
Trev9421

I understand why people like this game; I really do. Unfortunantly, I do not like it. I found the reviewer to be nearly spot on. Combat is tedious and the moves get boring very quickly. "Secret" areas are ridiculously easy to spot for anyone who has played many games. The game is difficult, but that is mostly due to your limited move set and near inability to deal with multiple enemies or ranged enemies without using your special abilities. The game does look nice, but I feel it's purpose was to show how the system can render Knacks body.

All of that being said, I am probably not this games target demographic, so take it with a grain of salt.

bakagami
bakagami

I agree with most of the reviews that it's not a great game, but I also disagree.  A "4"?  Come on, it's not that bad of a game, it just doesn't live up to it's potential.  I give it a 6.5 to 7

SR71halo
SR71halo

Gotta agree with Tom on this one.  This game is just bland in every area outside of the visuals.  The gameplay is repetitive and uninspired, the story is a snoozfest with forgettable characters, the levels are bland, there is hardly any platforming (which makes me question if this is a true platformer) and the one interesting gimmick it has, collecting relics to grow bigger, is a big missed opportunity and doesn't even attempt to add variety to the gameplay.


And yes, I'm a big fan of games like Crash and Spyro, which this game plays nothing like.  It pays more tribute to God of War than it does those classics.

Javier
Javier

This is an embarrassing game as a showcase for the PS4.

It has the blandest environments a game can have, sure,  the character models look amazing and are nicely animated but the overall design is really boring.


The gameplay is as engaging as a first generation generic PS One game, you are always kinda expecting Knack to get a new attack or new moves but same ol´same ol´the whole game.


I´m not sure if this was what Sony meant for "greatness awaits" because this is not worth $60. This is a $20 title that should be free for PS+ users.

prestonee
prestonee

The reviewer here is not a gamer in my opinion. And he complains about not getting any of the items built until 7, then he is not good at finding the secret rooms. Its actually a very fun game. I wonder if he reviewed mario brothers or sonic the hedgehog or any other iconic game if they too would be lower then 4, their combat is simply jumping on heads of the bad guys or dodging them all together and their secret levels simply give you more coins and rings.  This game was intended for a similar type audience, this is a game my wife will actually allow me to play in from of my daughter thanks to the lack of blood etc and the cartoon graphics. My daughter even likes to chime in, "dad i think thats a secret door", "dad watch out for that bad lady bug".  This is a good change of pace game that yes is a bit of challenge but is much more rewarding then mario brothers and sonic where you had to start back at the very beginning of the level again.  the particle physics used on knack is astonishing but is hidden away behind the overly simplistic cartoon textures. Its obvious this look was intended to give it its own sort of branding appearance similar to ratchet and clank. I enjoy the story and challenge , especially after i got the combo meter and seeing how many punches i can land without being hit(so far 30 is my limit). And the game play is changed with your outward appearance, for some reason the reviewer feels a robot made out of glass  should be invisible to human eye( its intent is to merely allow laser beams to pass through without refraction) but go wood form and add a fire and you got yourself flaming goblins and burning down walls but also combusting yourself causing a steady reduction in size. And the story does a pretty good job at giving reason why you have to get small, would be hard to transport you as a giant. in a 2 seater plane. I typically play games with a it more customization, but the game is fun and smooth the way it is. and i enjoy trying to out maneuver the baddies with my quick dash step etc.

-Pb


I give it a 8/10.

stalepie
stalepie

 Disappointed to see this score. At first I though the game looked bad, but now after completing it on Normal and Hard I'm very impressed with it. There's a lot of subtlety to the graphics, difficulty and progression. And on "Very Hard" the challenge is worse than Demon's Souls! No kidding. 

Definitely recommended if you want a tight, old-school game. I don't think the critics gave this one enough time. 

Jock9
Jock9

I'm having a lot of fun with this game too, alright it's maybe too simple but that doesn't destroy it for me. To me it's a solid PS4 launch title. 

chaos-commander
chaos-commander

This game is amazing if you love Ratchet & Clank,original Crash,original Spyro than this is the game for you I grew up with those games and it's actually difficult normal is a challenge. Knack is a well deserved 8/10

k--m--k
k--m--k

Sony overrated this game 

and gaming sites are underrating this game

its fun to play and nice to look at

but nothing serious and has no value storywise

RussellMartin
RussellMartin

I'm playing this game and am having a great time. It's cute and fun. Interesting characters and Knack changes thought the game.

djnforce9
djnforce9

I'm having a lot of fun with this title despite its simplicity. The challenge factor is really what keeps me going (playing on hard although I found that normal was not all that much easier). I also like how there are quite a variety of enemy types with different patterns of attack you must learn in order to be victorious. My only real complaint is how short Knack's attack range is when he's small. You have to get in REALLY close which can result in taking an easy hit if you're just slightly out of range (flying enemies are the worst for having this happen).

PancakePuncher
PancakePuncher

i was really hoping this game would turn out well

calducce
calducce

Having played this game I can tell you that this review is absolutely false. I'm beginning to think that reviewers have become jaded pretentious fools given the scores Knack has been getting. The game is very fun. I love it. kids love it. "THE BAD" section in the final points is completely ridiculous as grounds for giving such a low score. I wouldn't give knack a 9 or anything but a 7.5  seems reasonable considering all of the other games that have gotten that same score that are much less competent even as non launch titles. I'm beginning to think Mark Cerny rubbed some reviewers wrong and now there is a vendetta in order. I can't take game journalism seriously with reviews like this. :(

gabrielperry
gabrielperry

My son just finished this game. It's the first one I can recall in ages that he's actually finished, and he wants to play through it again to continue building his relic collection.Obviously, the game does a pretty good job targeting an audience that prefers simplicity. I think the reason this game seems to be so polarizing is because of that simplicity. For those of us that prefer more depth, it's hard not to think that the idea had so much more potential. I certainly can't imagine being on the game's design team and not thinking "A game based around a being that assembles himself from hundreds of discrete parts? Wow, that means he could reassemble himself into anything I can imagine!" It certainly does seem like an idea that should have inspired more variety. That said, the game is actually fun to play in small doses of up to a couple hours at a time. It's kind of an old school style game from the days when we didn't expect an in-depth combat system. (Sonic or Mario anyone?)

fernandofan08
fernandofan08

Its funny though. "Knack mindlessly punches his way through corridor after corridor of enemies" which is what you do in almost every FPS and fighting game. Ontop of that, 'you just punch, punch and punch again until you win' which I thought was the objective.

skunkpants
skunkpants

The Sony exclusives are really not living up to expectations. Especially the number of them...

drodriguesaar
drodriguesaar

"Knack mindlessly punches his way through corridor after corridor of enemies", actually all the FPS games are following the same path...

Speedballer2000
Speedballer2000

hahahaahahah. All the hype an promise made by these high execs at Sony when E3 came around about this exclusive game only for the PS4 and its gets a 4/10 hahahahaha you can keep it Sony. Wake me up when you actually have an exclusive game that's worth talking about!

bumsonfire
bumsonfire

Someone made a thread saying Xbox Exclusives are childish......

COUGH COUGH!

Hint172
Hint172

A 4.0 should basically mean the game is broken and doesn't work. I'm more than 75% of the way through and so far I've absolutely adored this game. While the game is not perfect by any means giving it a 4.0 is a bit ridiculous. Every chapter they introduce a couple new enemies and you have to reevaluate your tactics. It's extremely challenging and unforgiving which is need in gaming, enough of all the hand holding through combat. The last time I died this much in a game was dark souls, and like it I never feel cheater by my deaths. Every death equates to learning more about the enemy and forces me to think of a different approach. I would have liked to see more ways to attack and perhaps a more fitting voice for knack but besides that the game is awesome. For the people who are talking about metacritic scores, specifically user scores, those are a complete joke. So many people either vote 10 or 0 and that isn't a realistic view. As for the reviewers I sometimes feel like everyone just wants to be IGN so most sites just score games according to what they've done, but thats just my personal theory, no real science behind it. I'd say for the people who have a PS4 at least watch some gameplay on twitch or ustream and judge for yourself if the game is really this bad. 

AdderD
AdderD

Little variety to distract from the nonstop fighting 

Even enlarging Knack or turning him invisible doesn't change the action

 Artificial environments and enemy interactions 

Tiresome combat with a meager move set

I don't remember clicking on the Ryse: Son of Rome review :P

SpiderLuke
SpiderLuke

Knack is not a bad game. It's Crash Bandicoot with a greater challenge.

I was so worried that I made a mistake. It was a part of the buy 2 get one free deal on Amazon, but I was trying to think of a way to sell it off before I got my system. The negative reviews really discouraged me. I just played it today and I can honestly say that I love the game. I love the challenge of it too. It reminds me of old school platformers where you tried over and over until you did it right.

I'm not sure what people were expecting out of this title. It really reminds me of a harder version of Crash Bandicoot somewhat. I feel like people were thinking this was going to be baby God of War, but that most certainly isn't the case. 

This is a straight-forward plow through a level platformer and face whatever challenges lie ahead.

I feel like gamers don't want the games that used to be popular long ago, but I yearn for those. It's almost as if they expect complexity to be the evolution of the platformer. Sometimes a simple game that has a good challenge is a breath of fresh air.

Sure, the camera isn't perfect, but it surely doesn't deserve as low of scores that most sites have been giving it. I would have given it a 7.0. It's Crash Bandicoot with more spread out corridors and a greater challenge. 

Again, maybe people don't want that in a genre anymore, but I know I sure do.

I hope they make Knack 2, but I fear the media outlets are stirring up so much commotion and being so discouraging that gamers will not even give the game a chance, thus crushing any and all hopes for a sequel.

I implore you, if you liked Crash Bandicoot, play this. It is not a bad game at all.

jecomans
jecomans

@prestonee  It is hard to take you and your decidedly non-gamer opinion seriously when you compare Knack, a brawler, to old-school platformers. Your ignorance of critical context regarding genre is unbelievable. 

THE_DRUGGIE
THE_DRUGGIE

@chaos-commanderDude, I loved all those games and I still thought Knack was a boring pile of drivel. It's so...plain. It's basically an elongated tech demo being sold for $60. If this was a $20 downloadable game, then it would have been okay. 


A full retail game, though? Highway robbery.

djnforce9
djnforce9

@calducce I agree that this game is really underrated. I do get his point about the combat lacking variety though. It would have been nice to have been provided with a wide arsenal of moves all of which must be used depending on the enemy type. However, this hasn't stopped me from having fun with Knack and I CAN be on the picky side with games as I've been bored playing titles which have received stellar reviews and scores.

djnforce9
djnforce9

@gabrielperry  Never thought to compare it to Sonic or Mario but I do see the similarities in that the level design and enemies contain a nice variety but your player character does not. This IS the very thing that made both those classics interesting for multiple playthroughs. Knack does this by mixing up the scenery in each level, providing several enemy types, and including level-specific mechanics in each chapter that will keep things fresh. I still think a wider variety of moves would have been most welcome though.

mercerjimmy
mercerjimmy

Not everyone will like them but we do including knack. The other nice thing is more great games are on their way.

bernardoneves
bernardoneves

@Speedballer2000 PS3 had the best exclusives last gen, and PS4 can follow that has well, and btw the big roman game with awesome graphics had a 4/10 ahahahah...

calducce
calducce

@Speedballer2000 

no one is going to bother waking you up because no one cares about you or your opinion. kbye.

mercerjimmy
mercerjimmy

The ps4 is great also and the xbox looks cool to.

mercerjimmy
mercerjimmy

I'll take it because we love knack. Me and my daughter are having a lot of fun playing. If you believe every review you read that makes you a cool because everyone has different likes and dislikes.

calducce
calducce

@Hint172 

IGN and Gamespot have become less and less credible over the years. Money talks.

mercerjimmy
mercerjimmy

I agree me and my daughter are having lots of fun playing knack.

mercerjimmy
mercerjimmy

Oops thought my first comment didn't post oh well. Lol

mercerjimmy
mercerjimmy

Actually ps4 and xbox are both fun. I have been playing knack with my daughter and we both enjoy the game. The ps4 is fast and the games run smooth but you can keep on trolling to build your self esteem.

mercerjimmy
mercerjimmy

And you are an ignorant troll. Ps4 and xbox are both fun systems. The ps4 runs great and the games at smoothly. Lots of fun so maybe you are a joke.

mercerjimmy
mercerjimmy

Me and my family love the game also. I hope they make more like this because most games are not good clean fun for the family.

toshineon
toshineon

@SpiderLuke From what I've seen, this game seems alright. Not a masterpiece, but decent enough. I guess this game doesn't have enough bland environments and guns to score high, eh?

unaminous
unaminous

@SpiderLuke I'm not sure I need Crash Bandicoot to be any harder than it already was...

Mommas_b_o_y
Mommas_b_o_y

@SpiderLuke I loved it. The game is done very well. I wouldn't believe these reviews/scores. On the ps4 network, it got a 4.8 out of 5. Those people have actually played it

shawnnopes
shawnnopes

@mercerjimmyI suggest board games, you know the stuff we did as kids with the family. Also go play with sticks, and rocks, maybe make mudballs ;) Ohh the good old days. Glad I was a kid back then.

Horndawgie
Horndawgie

@Mommas_b_o_y Yeah well overall metacritic from people who have played it is 6.1 and professional reviewers overall is 5.7. You can keep telling yourself the game is good but the vast majority of people who HAVE played it think otherwise, including myself. Sorry.

mercerjimmy
mercerjimmy

Actually it's a great game but everyone's taste is different. Me and my daughter are having a blast but most people like the cod type games.

SpiderLuke
SpiderLuke

@soaduk @SpiderLuke Did you play it for very long? Did you like Crash Bandicoot? And whatever your answers are, I could care less because I personally love the game.

mercerjimmy
mercerjimmy

@shawnnopes We actually do play board games and it brings back good memories for myself also. :)  I remember the good old days playing games such as Uno, Monopoly, Othello and lots of other games.  One of my favorite things to do as a kid was going fishing.  We still make sure to get the kids outside as often as possible either playing in the yard or going to the park.

mercerjimmy
mercerjimmy

So people have different opinions you can also be sorry for yourself. No need to be sorry for someone that likes it because if your smart you would realize people have different likes and dislikes.

unaminous
unaminous

@Horndawgie @Mommas_b_o_y 

> You can keep telling yourself the game is good

Yes, that's what forming your own opinion means.

Mommas_b_o_y
Mommas_b_o_y

@Horndawgie @Mommas_b_o_y I could care less whether reviewers like it or not. I don't listen to movie critics either. playing it for 15 minutes on easy mode in a store isn't really the same. On hard mode it's challenging and fun for me. Whether the majority likes it doesn't matter. psn users did rate it high though. Interesting how the people who can play it rated it high...

nine-eight-nine
nine-eight-nine

@Horndawgie @Mommas_b_o_y Who cares what other people think or how someone else rates it. If another person enjoys it then so be it. It looks quite fun to me. My 8 year old boy thinks it looks great fun and I'm willing to bet that's the market Sony were aiming for with Knack. So all these scores are irrelevant. 

Knack

  • PlayStation 4
Knack is an action game for the PlayStation 4 where players take control of a creature with mysterious powers named Knack who is created to help neutralize a resurgent goblin army. Knack steps forward to protect mankind - until it becomes clear that an even greater danger is posed by elements of the human community.
ESRB
Everyone 10+
All Platforms
Check out even more info at the Knack Wiki on Giantbomb.com