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 AyatollaofRnR
AyatollaofRnR

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So we have a 7/10 and a 4/10 for PS4 launch exclusives.

Me thinks Forza, Ryse, DR3 and Killer Instinct are a much stronger line up.

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GameBeaten

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@AyatollaofRnR Somehow I think Forza is going to be the only good one that you listed.

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santinegrete

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@AyatollaofRnR if time gives you the reason we'll never hear the end of it.

2 • 
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XboxGuy1537

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Ouch! Knack and Killzone have gotten meh reviews. Resogun is the only strong game so far it looks like.


Hopefully the Xbox One games get good reviews. We already know that Forza 5 will be a masterpiece, but I'm not so confident in Ryse

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smokeless_0225

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I was actually expecting (not really....more like hoping) this game to get lucky and actually be decent. This review is a disappointment to me. Well now I know that my decision on getting KillZone instead was well made. lol!

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TERMINATOR-SSD

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its a KIDs game, what did you expect. You cant expect every little kid to play KillZone can you lol

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loafofgame

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@TERMINATOR-SSD Well, as a matter of fact you probably can expect little kids to play Killzone. As long as it shuts them up.

2 • 
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edussz

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I was hoping this game was something of a Banjo Kazooie... I was expecting puzzles and what not... This is really disapoining...

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Warriors30

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Edited By Warriors30

Let's face it, the PS4's launch line up is pretty weak. There's not a single game that's really worth buying a $400 console for...at least not yet. Greatness awaits...and I can wait.

2 • 
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GameBeaten

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@warriors30 I'm personally waiting for Kingdom Hearts III myself.

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rasterror

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Greatness awaits!

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Xx_DemonSoul_xX

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Edited By Xx_DemonSoul_xX

No surprise for me. This game looked stupid from the beginning. Sony will have some great exclusives as will Xbox. But Knack did nothing to help Sony's already weak launch titles. I will definitely miss not having Dead Rising 3. Great review Tom

3 • 
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DeViLzzzWIN

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Edited By DeViLzzzWIN

Well hopefully Knack 2 has more engaging combat and the enemies have more HP and the graphics are better and then maybe we would have a winner here.

As for people lucky to have what is called a rental store or can rent online do that if you are not sure about buying this. Seriously is it that hard to think of doing something like that ?

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santinegrete

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Edited By santinegrete

@devilzzzwin I doubt Knack 2 will happen if commercial reception (usually tied to critic one with few exceptions) is just like this one. It's too bad really, I wanted the gameplay mixed when Knack gets bigger, I took that for granted since it sounded so simple yet so cool. Oh man, it looks like the game is small yet the package is too big to justify.

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zeca04

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just hope infamous gets praise

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Jasurim

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Ahh haha...I can't say I'm surprised, it never looked like that strong of a title. Launch titles always seem to struggle a bit, that's why I'm in no rush to get my console. Hopefully we get to see some better games soon...

2 • 
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blackace

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WOW!! Another PS4 exclusive FLOP to go with KZ:SF Cows must be seriously butthurt. We knew Sony's launch lineup was WEAK, but damn.. this is a disaster right now. Only good game on PS4 right now is Resogun. Even "Contrast" flopped.

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JohnnyPogo

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Edited By JohnnyPogo

Its crazy to me how BAD this game looked from the get go. I for sure assumed it would be a PSN title, not a fucking retail game. the LEGO games have more action and pizzaz than this dull turd. I found it truly astonishing that sony would choose such a generic poor game to be in the launch line up.

2 • 
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DeViLzzzWIN

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@johnnypogo There are much better exclusive titles on the Wii U.

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ccgod

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@devilzzzwin @johnnypogo is that out yet?

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ccgod

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@GameBeaten @ccgod @devilzzzwin @johnnypogo sarcasm.... because it sux

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GameBeaten

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@ccgod @devilzzzwin @johnnypogo

It is, but Nintendo has a horrible marketing team as of late.

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shermenz

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I actually like Gamespot's "lower" rating system.

I'm tired that 7 is considered shit, and only 9.5 is adequate.

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yeebsey

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@shermenz if i cut my pie in to 10 pieces and give you 3 i still have the majority of pie
i'm extremely tired that majority of bitching comes because people cant comprehend a review system that is actually on a scale of 1-10 and not 6-10

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D3dr0_0

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I never understood the hype for this game also Mcshea doesn't like a lot of things.

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santinegrete

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Edited By santinegrete

@D3dr0_0 I think I was the only one hyping, much more people expected a dissapointment.

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deactivated-5ed679841254d

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Looks like I'm only getting Killzone, and next week for the Xbone I'll be happy to get Ryse, and Dead Rising, though I'm assuming their scores might be better than Sony's, I just have a strong gut feeling...

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endorbr

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Edited By endorbr

Just great to see people taking a reviewers word as gospel and jumping on the band wagon to all circle jerk each other and get off calling a game sh!t that they themselves have had no hands on with. If it doesn't interest you then fine. If you want to take the reviewers insights and decide against a purchase fine. But don't go falling off the deep end and dubbing it and all PS4 launch games by extension sh!t because they don't appeal to you. It doesn't make someone dumb or an idiot because this appeals to them and not you. If it doesn't interest you then just keep moving. And if you're an XBot then take your fanboy flame war trolling crap and stick it where the sun don't shine. Good day.

7 • 
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cvantu

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Edited By cvantu

@endorbr lol...you just described Sony fanboys on an Xbox article. I know you're sad today. Things will get better.

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deathstream

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@endorbr

Gamespot reviews are almost always lower than the average score. The Metacritic average for this game is below 60, so there is a general consensus that this one just isn't very good. If you want to spend $60 on a risky proposition, that is your choice. I am waiting for reviews before buying Ryse. If VanOrd (who has been more negative than any previewer I have seen) gives it a low score, that won't mean much to me. If most critics seem to agree that it isn't worth the money, I'll probably pass (or rent it or something).

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AK_the_Twilight

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Edited By AK_the_Twilight

@endorbr Because Knack and Killzone are two completely identical games and disliking one means that you'll automatically dislike the other and all other PS4 launch games, right?

Seriously, though, you're right. All of the typical responses are contradictory, for one, and just jerkwad material all around.

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Sun-Tzu-GE

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I have to admit.Sony had some weak launch titles.Though by the time the PS 4 comes out in my country I will have a nice lineup of games.

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chaos-commander

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@hordaak Nice one never been said before.

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deathstream

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OK. That is lower than I expected, even given some of the negative stories I had seen. Gamespot is still consistently dragging down the Metacritic average, but this one is getting pretty rough reviews across the board.

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goutetsuo

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lmfao all i have to say

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pete420630

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hmmmmm is it even worth picking up my preorder for resogun ....i dont think so ill wait the extra week

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chaos-commander

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@pete420630 People are loving resogun apparently.

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BlackBaldwin

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Edited By BlackBaldwin

Wats so great about a game that's pretty much is a recycled version of defender with excuse me a new paint job oh well to each is own I guess..

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chaos-commander

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Edited By chaos-commander

@BlackBaldwin IDK it look original I guess

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daveg1

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oh damn the launch line up isnt looking too good is it hahahahaha

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blackace

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@daveg1 PS4 exclusive launch lineup has BOMBED just like it did on the PS3.

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zmanrwks

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Edited By zmanrwks

Still better than Ryse

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dono14

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@zmanrwks In other words, "This game that I haven't played is better than that other game I haven't played."

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blackace

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@zmanrwks Ryse hasn't been scored yet, but if it even gets a 7, that's a win for the XB1 since everyone already knew the gameplay was pretty iffy. KZ:SF was suppose to be PS4 savor. It bombed hard.

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deathstream

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@zmanrwks

Ryse has raised some red flags, but has also received some more positive press of late. I don't expect it to score this low, but my expectations aren't too high either.

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joename13

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Edited By joename13

@deathstream @zmanrwks Ive read some things from people who played Ryse. They said it was as about as much fun as dialing a phone.

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deathstream

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@joename13 @deathstream @zmanrwks

One person said that. Others have been much more impressed with the more recent builds. It isn't a game that I would pre-order, but I am watching it closely because I hope it turns out to be good.

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FAIL_TR0LL

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@joename13 @deathstream @zmanrwks

Dialing a phone can be pretty fun, to be honest. Making songs with the dial tones is a great time!

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NEWTOTROLLING

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@zmanrwks Rather play that that this souless game.

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OHGFawx

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The little knack looks like Ike from South Park. Yeah this game is getting hammered across all the review sites right now so I'm glad this didn't turn into another McShea flame war in the comments.

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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