Developer: SCE Japan Studio
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release Date: November 15th, 2013
Available On: PlayStation 4
Dear PlayStation 4 early adopters: I’m sorry. I don’t think any of you could have known that one of the first games available on the console, Knack, would also be one of the worst. Yet here we are with this weird game that doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be, so it ends up failing at everything.
I’m sorry about the game’s weird lackluster plot. In Knack you play as, well… Knack. He’s a golem made out of Relics from some long lost civilization. Created to help fight against the Goblins in the Human-Goblin war, Knack quickly discovers that not all is quite as it seems and that the humans may have something else to worry about. Like the human dude with the pointy goatee who is so clearly evil its not even funny. Hey, his killer robots decided to attack the nice professor and the little kid? That’s okay, it was probably just a programming error. Yes, that is an actual excuse they use to try and justify it in the game. The game’s setting and tone is also all over the place, and it feels like it can’t decide what age group it’s trying to appeal to.
I’m also sorry about the gameplay that seems to have problems trying to figure out what it wants to be. Knack is a sorta brawler where Knack has to use his one and only combo to fight various enemies. Despite being a game that is clearly aimed for a younger audience, I found Knack to be kind of ridiculously difficult. Part of the problem was that Knack dies in one hit from basically everything, and nearly every enemy seems to have some kind of instant attack. I had a dodge that I could use, but it never seemed to be able to actually avoid anything. The one exception to that is when the game goes into slow-mo right before Knack gets hit by something and allows me to dodge it. For some reason the times this happened is completely random. I wasn’t sure what ever triggered it or if I had to do it myself.
Worse is the game’s growth mechanic, something that was highly advertised yet means nothing in the actual game itself. Knack starts off as this tiny little nothing that can barely hit. Yet as I played levels I was able to collect more relics to cause him to grow larger, something that also expanded his health bar and caused him to hit harder. On one hand its kind of neat to go from seeing enemies that were a real challenge to being able to kill them in a single hit. Yet on the other hand, it all happens at set times during levels. I can’t just find large stashes of relics and get big whenever I want, I just get big when the game decides its time to get big. Plus, as soon as I grew big enough to kill enemies in one hit while ignoring the damage they did, new enemies would be introduced that went back to killing me in one hit and requiring me to go back into “dodge everything” mode. Sometimes, instead of relics, Knack will gather up another material like ice or wood. This only changes the game up a little bit. For example: the ice will melt when in direct sunlight, while the wood will catch on fire easily.
In an attempt to make the combat a little more manageable Knack can find Sunstones to power up crystals. Once powered, he can spend a crystal to unleash a super attack. This gives him the ability to either send out a powerful shockwave, shoot clusters of relics at enemies, or turn into a useless tornado that doesn’t seem to do much damage. Sunstones don’t really seem to charge up enough for this to be a viable option for much other than “get out of a fight for free” though. At least I kept Sunstone charge between deaths, so if there was a particularly tough fight then I could keep running from the checkpoint (also, checkpoints are few and far in between for some awful reason) back to the fight over and over until I had a super move ready to spend.
Knack also contains a really weird upgrade system. Each chapter has hidden chests that contain either parts of gadgets or a crystal relic. Gadgets are things that give Knack some extra options, like the ability to slow down time after a successful dodge or holding onto an extra Sunstone charge. Yet since I could only find parts of the Gadgets, and each chest is totally random, I had to hope that the chests I was finding would contain what I needed. There was also a chance I could find crystal relics, and if I collect enough of a crystal relic then I could play as different versions of Knack with different stats. Again, it’s totally random and by the time I had stopped playing Knack I had only built a single Gadget, and only a few crystal relics from each of the possible new Knacks I could make.
While I may joke that Sony owes us an apology for Knack, I’m not joking that Knack is terrible. It’s a game that feels like it was rushed out for the PlayStation 4’s launch without deciding what they wanted to do with it yet. I’m sorry for anyone who’s launch was plagued by this game and who may still pick it up today.