Review

Knack Review

  • First Released Nov 15, 2013
    released
  • PS4

Falling to pieces.

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.
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.
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.
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.

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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

About the Author

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.
1034 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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Avatar image for GLOK1132
GLOK1132

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Was anyone really expecting it to be good?

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Delston

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@GLOK1132 Sony was pushing this game as though it would have any appeal to anyone that was older than 5...

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bnutzinger

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@GLOK1132 Well I expected it to be at least decent fun.

You know beeing majorly featured in the launch of the PS4 and whatnot.

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GLOK1132

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@bnutzinger It was just a ploy to try to get kids interested. They tried to take a play out of Nintendo's playbook and it failed.
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bnutzinger

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Edited By bnutzinger

@GLOK1132 Yep. That does seem to be the case.

Or something like "Hey look! We got something for casuals aswell"

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Mommas_b_o_y

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I'm more interested in what users have to say about the game. bf4 got like an 8.5 users gave in a 7 on average. I've noticed if games like movies don't align to the political viewpoint of the critic; they rate it lower. I already bought it. If it stinks i'll sell it, but I like what i've seen from the gameplay. I can only play so many fps games. That marvel punch em up game was fun.

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DonRoosevelt

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Should be renamed "GIMMICK".

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Fabian85

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So i should spend 500 for this crap and that mediocre shooter? ehm no

4 • 
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Kraven1845

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Meh, I never agree with Tom. Still looks pretty fun.

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DonRoosevelt

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@Kraven1845 You must not play many good games.

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Delston

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Edited By Delston

@DonRoosevelt this made me LOL

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MickSharples

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Apply cold water immediately to the effected area

2 • 
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gamefreak215jd

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Ouch!

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masfima1

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what a giant turd

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GameBeaten

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Edited By GameBeaten

I never expected anything too special about this game.

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dmastor

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Was I the only one who couldn't believe how bad rating this got? I had to take a double take

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hadlee73

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Edited By hadlee73

Ugh. It looks like someone scraped all the goodness out of God of War :(

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Diegoctba

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I think Tom doesn't understand the message of this game, they are saying that we are falling apart, that's why the character is made by pieces, because of the modern society.

Please Tom, be more serious and open you heart next time, maybe you can understand what the game is talking about.

3 • 
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FAIL_TR0LL

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@Diegoctba When the dog eats it's own crap in Call of Duty, it's really a metaphor for living within your means. With the hustle and bustle of modern society, we often forget that our own poop still has more vitamins and nutrients left to harvest, so sometimes it's best to give that sucker another tour of duty before flushing it down.

24 • 
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Diegoctba

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@FAIL_TR0LL @Diegoctba

We should review the games. That was amazing!

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hadlee73

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@FAIL_TR0LL OMG FT, that's deep.

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ahpuck

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My decision to cancel my reservation and wait till next year to buy a PS4 was right. Maybe by then Naughty Dog will bless us with another of their masterpieces.

6 • 
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Diegoctba

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@ahpuck

Naughty Dog is terrible, they should go to jail, make that horrible game called Uncharted, a psycho killer who kills thousands of people and just make jokes about it.

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silversix_

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Got what it deserves. Next 4/10 is Ryse Son of 900p.

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kingnothing47

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No idea why this is so funny but it is

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Gaming-Planet

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This is next gen lol

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bilaljalook

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wtf!! i tried the demo in GamesCom and i say 4/10 is not fair ,it should be 8/10 IMO

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Prats93

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Looks like Resogun might be the strongest game the PS4 has to offer at launch, lol.

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SiLenTWarrior29

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GAAWWD DDAAAAAYYYUUUM!!?! Lol

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AvatarMan96

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Ouch...

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THE_RECLAlMER

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But...but...Mark Cerny!!!!

2 • 
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PupilsDilated

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Edited By PupilsDilated

Is this the game that Sony has been talking so highly about?

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blast880

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Edited By blast880

Sry Mcshea... but this review is a total miss for me, the game looks fun and the cartoony style suits it reminds me of some good old challenging platformers. What a fail what did you try to show off with that small number? Your bad taste in games?

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FAIL_TR0LL

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@blast880

Tom has been pretty harsh more often than not (Bioshock Infinite probably being his biggest blunder), but if the overall sentiments from around the internet are more or less the same, I don't think this is just "Tom being Tom."

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blast880

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@FAIL_TR0LL @blast880 maybe... maybe not, maybe its just some sort of sentiment of mine but i dont think this game deservers that score, sure it looks simple and it probably is but strangely familiar and fun to me as well... But allas Mcsh*ts notoriously retarted reviews and tastes have to be accepted i guess, lets just hope someone else at gamespot will add their grain of salt and i will see a review made from my perspective as well:P

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FAIL_TR0LL

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@blast880 @FAIL_TR0LL

I'm sure that if there is someone at Gamespot with a massively different opinion, it'll get a second take.

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RicanV

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RicanV  Moderator

GI gave Knack an 8.5. So many conflicting reviews.

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GameBeaten

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@RicanV Game Informer? The magazine owned by Gamestop? Sometimes I wonder if they honestly rate something good or not just so they can have people come down to the stores. Especially since Knack is a PS4 launch exclusive.

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SiLenTWarrior29

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I keep forgetting that this is gamespot. Always trying to stand out smh

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FAIL_TR0LL

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@RicanV

My imagination gave Knack an 8 out of 27.

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Stevo_the_gamer

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Edited By Stevo_the_gamer  Moderator

@RicanV It has a 59 on Metacritic Rican; thus, it might be time to cut your losses and look for another game. :P

3 • 
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Shadowdanc3r

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@RicanV An 83 wouldn't translate to an 8.5 here, just an 8.

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DiverseGamer

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@RicanV That is literally the ONLY positive review for this game I've seen on the internet. This game is a turd.

2 • 
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Flare1721

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@DiverseGamer @RicanV Ya because 7's are negative.

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RicanV

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RicanV  Moderator

@Flare1721 @DiverseGamer @RicanV We're on the Knack review not KZ. lol.

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RicanV

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RicanV  Moderator

@DiverseGamer @RicanV I actually look for the review that is the polar opposite. Sometimes reviewers don't want to stray too far from the norm and adjust their piece.

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voljin1987

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@RicanV @DiverseGamer per your logic, last of us deserved an 8 then?

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eaterofsouls2

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I'll be playing this on Friday. I'll let you guys know my experience. Don't listen to a #. I'll post my review or something. These opinions are peaking my interests

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santinegrete

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I wanted it to be good, like the gamespot new layout... but no... NO.... :(

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Kraven1845

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@santinegrete the new layout sucks a nut sac

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loafofgame

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@Kraven1845 @santinegrete Dude, did you ever get your nut sack sucked? It can be pretty amazing.

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Reuwsaat

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Well who had any expectation over this game anyways

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Knack

First Released Nov 15, 2013
released
  • 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.

4
Poor

Average Rating

188 Rating(s)

6.5
Content is generally suitable for ages 10 and up. May contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.
Everyone 10+
Fantasy Violence