434: Knack for PlayStation 4 Review

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While PlayStation Plus can be considered a mixed bag, in terms of its services, I have grown to love the fact that while not permanently yours to own, I get to try out free games that I may have not tried otherwise, because of having to pay for them, or just not being interested in the genre itself. This also helps when the free game in question is quite frankly terrible. I like to try and stay away from most bad games, because I don’t want to waste my time with them, and if I get a code for a game, and it just happens to not be good, then so be it. For some reason though, after five years, I finally sat down to play the PlayStation 4 launch title, Knack. It was one of the first games shown off for the console, alongside Killzone: Shadow Fall. At first, I thought the people who hated this game were just overreacting. It couldn’t be that bad of a game. Well, even after five years, it is.

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The story takes place in a futuristic time, where the human race has machines run on these old relics that were deep within the earth. Another thing they have to deal with are goblins! Yeah, it’s one of those types of futures. One day, the goblins end up having high-tech weaponry, and are attacking human settlements. A scientist decides to offer up a way to protect the humans from the threat of goblins. He introduces a small golem-like being, that is made of nothing but relics, called Knack. Knack is then sent off to defeat the goblins, and like any adventure, Knack and some of the humans get into something much bigger than they expected.

Knack is a simple 3D platformer, where you run down rather linear levels, fighting enemies that range from bugs to orcs, getting materials to make Knack bigger, and solve fairly easy puzzles. It’s really just that simple. The only major gimmick is that some materials that will make Knack grow will have elemental properties. This means that sometimes Knack will be made of ice, wood, or see-through materials that can have him sneak his way past security lasers. You can also play this game in co-op with a friend. Surprisingly, the most noteworthy aspect of this game’s gameplay is the difficulty. I played it on normal, and for one reason or another, I actually had a tough time going through some levels, due to the nature of how much damage you take. For a character that can become bigger and supposedly stronger, you take a lot of damage from one hit, and some enemies have one-hit kills that aren’t always telegraphed. The only other thing worth mentioning is that you can find special items that don’t really do a whole lot to change the experience.

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Graphically, even for a game back in 2013, it looks only fine. I’m sure this game was somewhat rushed to launch with the PlayStation 4, but it doesn’t have the graphics that made you go “wow! I have to have a PlayStation 4!” I am sure it was super impressive back in 2013, but now it looks like a shinier PlayStation 3 game. Sure, it was a game to show off how many particles can be on screen, but why would I buy this game back when the console launched, when I could have gotten Killzone: Shadowfall instead? I don’t hate the designs, but for all the cartoony designs, they needed some of that Double Fine production punch in personality. No one is really that expressive. It’s a game that has a look that’s trying to be a cheesy Saturday morning cartoon. The music by composers Matthew Margeson and Wataru Hokoyama is adequate at best. It has epic music when the action gets tough, and ambient and fantastical music everywhere else. I don’t really remember much else about the musical composition. I guess if I had to compare it to another franchise, it sounds like something similar to the early Ratchet & Clank games.

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When I talk about a game, I try to keep all the negatives in one part of the review, but as you can see, it leaked out throughout the last paragraph. This game screams “we have to do something for the PlayStation 4” and it really shows. First off, good luck not getting frustrated at this game. Even on normal difficulty, this game was a chore to beat. You could be three times stronger or be as strong as other enemies, and you can still get either get hit by cheap shots, or one-hit killed. It doesn’t help that Knack is not fun to control. He’s sluggish, his attacks have no range, and he has what might be possibly the worst dodge dash out of any video game. The problem is that the game wants to be this simple and easy to get into platformer, but it does a lot of things that were only okay 15 or so years ago, because gaming was still getting a hang of 3D gaming. Even for 2013, this was woefully archaic, compared to something like Super Mario 3D World, which came out the same year. The special items don’t do much to help the gameplay. I always felt at a disadvantage, no matter if I was bigger than the enemies or not. The game mechanic of absorbing other elements like wood and ice are kept to only visuals, and never took advantage of controlling metal, wood, or ice. Even for a 2013 game on a brand spanking new system, I ran into a lot of slowdown. Like, if this game was supposed to show off the graphical capabilities, then I shouldn’t be seeing a huge chunk of slowdown or lifeless levels. I also never found the characters that interesting. Knack is not as interesting as you would think he would be, and the characters are forgettable. I could look up their names, but I shouldn’t be doing that if they left a certain impact on me.

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At first when I heard about this game, I thought people were probably being too harsh on it. It’s a launch title, so I’m sure it’s not as bad as people make it out to be. Well, for once, I agree with them. Even five years later, this game is not good. It’s clunky, frustrating, not fun to play, forgettable, not satisfying, and is probably Sony’s worst franchise. Sure, I have played the sequel, and while it is better, the elements in the second game that made it an improvement should have been in the first game. Seriously, the first game feels so outdated that I’m shocked that someone like Mark Cerny didn’t know that platformers that are easy to get into have been evolving and progressing past the PlayStation 1 days. Just avoid it. Even when it was free on PlayStation Plus, it was too much. If you have to try out the franchise, pick up the second game, but you can easily play any other 3D platformer, like Super Mario OdysseySuper Lucky’s TaleSuper Mario 3D World, and Yooka-Laylee. I’ll get to the sequel soon, but Knack will not be remembered well in history. Just avoid it.

This game gets a 3 out of 10.

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