To much criticism, the PlayStation 4 launched with only two retail exclusives that fell on very opposite ends of the gaming spectrum. There was the mature, in terms of both gameplay and story, Killzone: Shadow Fall and on the other end was the family friendly, seemingly made for kids Knack. Games designed with kids in mind don't necessarily mean they are bad; after all, Super Mario 3D World, released last year for the Wii U, is one of 2013's best games. With Mark Cerny, the mind behind Crash Bandicoot, taking the helm with Knack, surely this game would be a return to the platforming greatness of yesteryear we saw with the original PlayStation. At least, that was the hope.
Jack Of All Trades but Master Of None
Knack doesn't quite know what it wants to be. It's certainly not a platformer, as the platforming segments are slim and not that difficult. It's not a puzzle game, as the puzzle elements found in the game are of the simple “step on the switch” variety. In previews for the game, Knack was likened to “God of War for kids,” which would be true if your character had more than one attack: a simple punch that you can string into some bland combos. In most games, your repertoire of moves starts small and builds larger as you become more experienced with the game: that's Gaming 101. However, with Knack your repertoire of moves never grows beyond a simple punch and dive attack, though your enemies are so brain-dead you'll never really need much more.
Knack is also similar to Katamari Damacy, as Knack will absorb relics and grow to a colossal size. This part of the game is generally interesting and fun, but nothing really comes of it as Sony controls your size too much. You won't grow smaller or larger due to your own merits, but rather when the developer lets you, so the growing of size becomes nothing more than just a cheap gimmick. You're big when the game says you're big, not because you played well.
But maybe we're getting ahead of ourselves here. How is the rest of the game?
Like A Cartoon, If You Like Awful Cartoons
The plot of Knack is like one of those awful Saturday morning cartoons, where the characters and plot are paper thin in an attempt to get you to buy the tie-in action figures and merchandise. You are never given a clear reason for doing anything in Knack, other than the plot just telling you to do it. It would be one thing if the game was as good as Super Mario 3D World, where the gameplay is so amazing that the lack of story doesn't really matter. But Knack's gameplay is so mediocre that it needs something to keep you playing, and the story just doesn't provide it. “Do these objectives because I tell you to” doesn't make for compelling gameplay in the least.
Amazing gameplay can make up for the lack of a story, while a great story can get some gamers to plod through bad gameplay – you have to have one or the other. Medicore gameplay with a bland story is a recipe for failure.
Using The Power of the PlayStation 4
If you can say one thing for Knack, it's that it looks amazing, like a playable Pixar film. This is likely where all the budget went into: creating an amazing looking game to showcase the power of the PlayStation 4. Luckily, it succeeds, but when a game is all flash and no substance, there is really no reason to play. Ryse, a similar game for the Xbox One, had the same problem but at least there the game clocked in at five hours and had a somewhat decent story. Knack, on the other hand, drags itself out to longer than ten hours, has no interesting story and just rests on pretty graphics. It's not enough, especially because Killzone: Shadow Fall gives you amazing graphics coupled with great gameplay to boot.
Knack does feature some replayability in the form of secret rooms, challenges, co-op and unlockable costumes that change how you play the game, however none of this works in the game's favor as you're going to struggle to finish this game the first time. What we can say is that the game controls decent, it doesn't contain any serious bugs or glitches and it looks beautiful. Even Sony has had to come to the game's defense multiple times, stating it was never meant to be a huge blockbuster but rather a game that received at least above average review scores. Sadly, it doesn't get that from even us, as the game is below average and we expected more from the great Mark Cerny.
It's worth it when Sony eventually makes it free for PlayStation Plus users, and maybe if you can grab it for $20, but for a full price purchase you can do much better on the PlayStation 4.
Final Score: 4/10
Game Category: Action / Adventure
Article by - Joshua Phillips
Insert Date: 1/1/2013