Knack (PlayStation 4)

Developer(s) – SCE Japan Studios

Publisher(s) – Sony Computer Entertainment

Director – Mark Cerny

Producer – Yusuke Watanabea

Released as a launch title for the PlayStation 4, Knack showcased early on into the console’s shelf life what it was capable of doing on a graphical level; mainly through the visual aspects of the game’s titular character. It is a pretty nice-looking game, and I did find it kept me entertained for a few hours, but that’s as far as it went. As with many launch titles, it was ultimately very insubstantial compared to what games would be released for the console in its first full year.

Graphics – 9/10

As was undoubtedly intended by the developers, the visuals are by some distance the best thing about the game. The level of graphical detail represented through Knack as he absorbs different materials in to his body to gain different abilities, such as ice, wood and metal, was unlike anything I’d ever seen in any other video game. There were some glitches throughout, but they were barely noticeable; instead, attention will drawn to not only the design of Knack, but to many of the different locations throughout the game. Some of which stand out really well from the rest of the game, such as the Legendary Land and the many different underground temples. Former Naughty Dog employee, Mark Cerny, directed the game and his influence is made extremely apparent.

Gameplay – 7/10

Another aspect whereby Cerny’s influence shines through is within the gameplay. Playing out very much like the classic Crash Bandicoot games, it is a linear 3D stage-based 3D platformer with emphasis on combat (albeit somewhat more varied), and collecting hidden treasures throughout the game. However, I thought it to be a little bit repetitive at times, and it does fall short of what could potentially have been done with it. Such is the nature of most launch titles. Perhaps the developers may be saving a greater level of variety for a possible sequel, which I think should be an open world game. That’s what I think they should have done with the Crash Bandicoot series even before those games ended up on sixth-generation hardware. Certainly, if the developers have any desire to make a franchise out of Knack, which at the moment is uncertain, then they will need to make a game worlds apart from the first.

Controls – 6/10

For a launch title, though there aren’t many problems with the actual control scheme, I was underwhelmed with how little it did to show off the controller’s new features, such as the touch screen; even some basic buttons have no use at all. I think it’s partly because of this that the game’s combat system greatly adds to the game’s sense of repetition.

Lifespan – 5/10

Overall, the game can be complete to 100% within about ten hours; that being after two playthroughs. There is a small amount of replay value to be had within the game in playing through it a second time and collecting hidden items that may have been first the first time around, but other than this, there’s really next to no cause for playing through it again.

Storyline – 6/10

The game’s story also does very little to impress or engross. The story follows Knack; a creature discovered by a scientist, Dr. Vargas, who can harness the power to bind ancient relics together and give them consciousness. Vargas believes that Knack could potentially be an invaluable weapon in the ensuing war between mankind and a race of goblins, but it gradually comes to light that there is an even bigger threat for Knack to prevent. The problems are that there’s nothing really unique about it apart from it’s basic premise. There is hardly any character development involved, and it is consequently extremely hard to identify or show any concern for any of them. I’ve also noticed that in terms of story, it is very similar to most other video game stories about treasure hunting, such as Uncharted, Tomb Raider etc, in that despite setback after setback, the heroes always find a way to save the day. Perhaps this could be seen as Cerny’s influence yet again cropping in; though in this case, in a much more negative way.

Originality – 5/10

The most original thing about the game is simply the design of Knack himself, the in-game locations, and a couple of the enemy designs; granted, however, a lot of them in particular are heavily recycled throughout the game. In terms of both story and gameplay, there isn’t a great deal present to differentiate it between other games, which makes me believe that if they ever did release a sequel, a lot of drastic changes and improvements would have to be made.

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Overall, Knack can draw from players a few hours of fun, but there was most definitely room for improvement in almost every aspect. People may be surprised by my opinion of this, given how happy I was with the console’s launch period, but that was mostly down to the plethora of indie games released for it early on; the console’s early mainstream scene paled in comparison, and Knack is a shining example of that.

Score

38/60

6/10 (Average)

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