The amalgamation of Knack’s many shining components is a fitting yet painfully ironic analogy of what it ultimately fails to achieve, instead of providing us with what could have been the successor to Crash Bandicoot we are given a repetitive, bland and unfortunately monotonous experience. Knack manages to entertain in short bursts but the more time you invest into this archaic platformer the more pronounced its problems become, and gorgeous visuals can only keep a wound closed for so long. Knack is a missed opportunity, but underneath its exterior lies a solid platformer, its just a shame that this fluidity is often ruined by a myriad of irritating flaws.
“Knack” is our deep voiced protagonist, created by a man only known to us as the “The Doctor” a world famous inventor who is known for harnessing mysterious objects known as relics into a renewable power source, these very same relics form the basis of Knack’s character. The more relics collected by Knack the larger he grows, and the more devastating his limited attacks become, and this constant growth in size is one of the game’s most appealing features; there is nothing better than slowly towering upon your foes only to smash them into the ground once you have the opportunity. But this sense of power is diminished as you begin to realise that this change in size does little to alter the gameplay, and at times it doesn’t feel like the developers even tried to innovate or challenge the established conventions of generic platforming.
Knack plays brilliantly, and the controls are solid and responsive, allowing you to leap around the confined environments to your heart’s content. But other than a few secret rooms there is little to discover, and the game often pushes you onward once you have cleared the enemies from each area, giving you little chance to appreciate the gorgeous environments presented to you. You possess one main attack, and three individual special attacks that be powered up with Sunstone Crystals, and these attacks can often be spammed to clear a difficult area, making them feel like a cheap way out rather than a strategic addition to the game. The barebones platforming does little to spice up to the gameplay, and Knack’s double jump ability feels so underpowered and floaty that some jumps are difficult to judge, leading to some deaths that feel unjustified and no fault of your own.
Whenever a new and potentially interesting mechanic is introduced Knack seems to relinquish control from you and move you onto the next boring platforming section, which only convinced me further of the heaps of wasted potential Knack seems to burden itself with. One particular section saw Knack floating over fans to avoid obstacles and traverse these environments, but these only appeared twice over the 8-10 hour runtime, making me feel cheated for slogging through dozens of boring platforming sections only to be rewarded with more of the same, but I guess this encouraged me to keep digging deeper to find something interesting, shame that never really happened. Merely seeing Knack utilising different elements, crushing up buildings and hopping about the place seemed to be enough for me though, even if I was fully aware of the adventure’s abundant mediocrity.
If you go into expecting a quality plot and strong storytelling you are going to be disappointed, as Knack serves up a tale that is serviceable yet predictable to the point of parody at times. The gist of plot is that you are tasked with stopping Viktor, an evil inventor who you could see coming from a mile away, and this generic adventure is accompanied by a love story so contrived that it is almost laughable. It becomes so predictable that you will have guessed its conclusion hours before it actually occurs, loosening the potential emotional impact the plot could have had, making the game’s story seem like an excuse for the platforming rather than a setting that could be delved into and expanded later on in the series, if a Knack sequel actually ends up existing that is. Once again Knack presents us with some genuine imagination that could have led to something special, but this potential is thrown away in favour of a lazy and derivative adventure that seems like a poor man’s pixar film.
Knack’s beautiful visual style may be its only saving grace, as each level introduces a breathtaking new setting that does an excellent job of showcasing the art design contained within the game, but it never amounts to anything other than temporary eye candy. The meticulously crafted environments that decorate every stage can never be fully explored or appreciated, and Knack himself feels confined and restricted by the environment , negating their overall impact and quality. When Knack himself grows large frame-rate problems become a regular occurrence, trading a balanced frame rate for fancy particle effects that may be impressive, do not justify damaging the already fading appeal Knack has.
If I were to summarise Knack in two words, it’d be “missed opportunity” as it possesses all the qualities I would expect from a next generation Crash Bandicoot. But instead of hanging onto to its platforming potential it fumbles onto the floor and explodes into a million pieces. Just like Knack himself, the title has several interesting components but they never form into a cohesive and entertaining whole, and the unapproachable difficulty only makes this barrier even higher. If you are a lover of platformers then this may be up your street, but unless you play with a friend (like I did) there is little to love here. As far as average platformers go it may be worth a try, but certainly not at full price.