“But it’s charm and openness to want to be played by all is admirable and something I’m thrilled to see”
Ever since the PlayStation 4 reveal event, Knack has always seemed to be nothing more than a glorified tech demo. Seeing a character made entirely of tiny materials cobbled together, assembling and disassembling at a moments notice isn’t as memorable as Sony’s previous duck demos – but at least this time we got a fully fledged game out of it. Despite it’s throwaway story about goblins, humans and ancient artefacts, from the outset it’s a game that was made with one goal in mind – simplicity and accessibility. But it’s also those reasons, that harm Knack’s appeal, as it’s centre is a much different beast than it appears on the outside.
Controlling Knack is simple, the gameplay is based on a two button system with X to jump and Square to attack. It doesn’t allow for many variations in combo’s or fighting patterns, with X followed by Square rolling Knack into a ball to hit an enemy from the air. This being the most extravagant attack you can do outside of specials.
Specials you say? Dont’ sound too excited, pressing Circle gives Knack three different attacks which work when you collect yellow Sunstones and build up your meter. Pressing Circle and any other face button unleashes an attack more powerful than your basic ones. But even though the basic gameplay of Knack sounds, well, basic. It’s enough to allow both experienced gamers and newcomers play at a decent pace. If you’re expecting a full on adventure in the style of something like Mario or even a Jak & Daxter than Knack is the totally wrong game for you. When played on Normal or below, Knack is an easy to access and easy to manipulate game, but above normal it’s an entirely different beast, only accessible by players who know how to handle themselves.
Another addition on that theory is that the game is extremely linear. Aside from small secret walls and doors that you can smash open to find treasures and gadget pieces, you’ll be going from section to section with very little room to manoeuvre. There are small puzzle and platform elements throughout, but nothing too taxing and you certainly won’t be checking out GameFAQ’s to squander through to the next cutscene.
Despite the linearity and the simple gameplay mechanics, the more I played, the more I enjoyed my time with Knack. I’m not sure if it’s Pixar like visuals, vibrant palette, or just Knack’s goofy look that resonated with me. But no matter the amount of times I was pummelled by enemies, I can count the number times I was truly frustrated on one hand. Starting levels and taking on enemies a few feet taller than you was daunting, but usually by the end you’ve grown as big as a house and are able to smash those same enemies with one hit. It’s a really satisfying mechanic and even though I knew it was going to happen at almost every turn, getting big and smashing everything like the Hulk never got old and is of Knack’s high points. Taking care of enemies, who had earlier thwarted you, quenched a thirst inside me I never knew I had.
Even if those enemies that did trouble you managed to knock you down, the game loads so quickly that before you even think about quitting, your back in the game before you know it.
One of the more hidden features of Knack is that it has it’s own co-op mode, that I played extensively with my other half. The second player takes control of ‘Robot Knack’ a slightly smaller version of regular Knack. Robot Knack is slightly different, he has a smaller, but almost unlimited special meter, is slightly quicker and can respawn as soon as he dies. The game’s static camera doesn’t adjust to fit both players in the picture however, meaning that I have my doubts as to whether this was a fully fledged feature to being with, or one that just made the cut towards the end. Nevertheless it’s a functional, if not truly realised addition to Knack.
Knack’s graphical style means it looks like a downloadable game, but there’s enough content here to justify it’s full retail price. It’s difficulty spikes, even on normal, are perhaps too great at times and can frustrate even the best players. But it’s charm and openness to want to be played by all is admirable and something I’m thrilled to see. It’s a game I can play on my own, with my partner or with my son, and that’s a hard pressed thing to find in games these days unless it has Nintendo on the box.