What happens when you take the platforming out of the platformer?
What is left after you take nearly all of the platforming out of Crash Bandicoot, and instead pump up the combat difficulty unnecessarily? Well, you probably guessed Knack, and you’d be right.
Knack is such a bizarre game. It bills itself as an action platformer, although it has almost no platforming, and when it does it is ludicrously simple. The platforming, then, is in stark contrast to the often frustratingly difficult combat the game is packed to the brim with. What’s more, Knack is pitched at least in part as an accessible game for kids. I imagine the easy difficulty is very easy to hop in to, and the controls could not be simpler, but the Knack character is super boring and the story is not charming or funny in any way. I’m not sure where the appeal lies.
Except that I got totally addicted to this game. It wasn’t fun, per se, in fact often times it felt like work, but it was incredibly addicting. I always had to play another level. It didn’t matter that the game tried to reward you by making the character bigger and stronger throughout each mission, and instead it punishes you with painfully slow movement, or that the checkpoints can be so frustrating that you want to throw the controller out the nearest window. The combat is simple: punch dudes. Knack has a short range, and he moves relatively slowly. As such, you don’t get a whole lot of options in combat, but there is a certain amount of fun in figuring out each combat scenario, and then executing it perfectly. And I say perfectly because Knack is so fragile that you need to complete each check point without taking more than two or three hits.
Knack looks beautiful, technically. Every texture is crisp, and all the little bits of Knack come together in a very appealing manner. However, the entire game is devoid of style, so its visual strength will leave you feeling empty inside. To fill that void, you get a pretty shaky framerate that seemed to get worse as the game progressed.
There’s a collection aspect to the game that encourages multiple playthroughs; in fact, I only unlocked two of the easiest items to craft by the end of my run on the normal. If you have friends playing Knack, when you find an item you get a few more options for what you get, and can specialize towards unlocking certain items. Some of the equipable items seem to have an enormous affect on gameplay, but unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to mess with any of the interesting sounding ones.
Knack is that mediocre game that you expect to see at launch. I admit, I played the crap out of it and had an enjoyable time, at least until the end. However, the game has such little substance such that it’s difficult to recommend. But if you absolutely need something to play on your PS4 to pass the time, Knack isn’t the most offensive game you could find.