The lights are on
Gamers had all weekend to play Sony's launch lineup, and Japan
Studio's new action/platformer has emerged as the most divisive title of the
bunch. My time with Knack so far has been largely positive, but discussing it
with my coworkers reinforced an important lesson: You can't rationalize other
The metacritic scores for Knack provide a rainbow of wildly
differing opinions. Critic reviews run as high as 84 and as low as 30, and are
pretty evenly distributed throughout. User reviews are predictably polarized, with
scores ranging from 10 to 0, and little in-between.
Note the difference in
score distribution between critics and users; user scores don't use more of the
spectrum – they use the ends of spectrum.
I was aware of the critical reception of Knack when I
started playing it this weekend, but I didn't give it much thought. I could say
the same for the game, as well. I wasn't particularly excited by the coverage I
had seen up to launch, and after reading Matt's
generally positive review, I decided to give it a try more out of curiosity
than the hope that it would blow my mind.
As is often the case when I go into a game with low
expectations, I was pleasantly surprised by what I played. Knack is a lot
prettier than what the trailers led me to believe; it might not sport the realistic
environments or super-detailed character models of other next-gen games, but
the textures are sharp and the particle physics are impressive. In terms of
gameplay, Knack's controls are spot-on, and while the combat lacks depth, it's
still satisfying – and much more challenging than I expected. The story is certainly
goofy, but I appreciate it as a fun (albeit throwaway) fantasy tale. It seems
perfect for children – and I don't mean that in the condescending way people
usually do – but given the challenge of combat, little kids would likely have
to play with a parent.
I played roughly half of the game this weekend, a few hours
at a time. I'm certainly not blind to the game's shortcomings, and scoffed in
disbelief at some of the more unforgiving checkpoints. Still, I have been
thoroughly enjoying the game and don't get how harsh some critics have been. I
fully expected to come into work this morning and find more of my fellow
editors who shared my opinion.
To my surprise, I was still in the minority. The coworkers I
talked to weren't foaming at the mouth like some of the game's detractors, but they
weren't enjoying it either. To them, the gameplay is overly simple and frustrating,
and they don't find the characters nearly as charming as I do. The most common
sentiment I heard is one I've seen reiterated online: People want to see
something new from a next-gen launch title, and Knack isn't it. I thought about
that criticism a lot; Knack certainly does feel more like a love letter to a
bygone era of gaming than a demonstration of what's new and exciting about
next-gen. Is that why people are scoring it so low?
And that's just about the time when I realized I was trying
to rationalize why people disagree with my opinion; a classic trap that gamers love
to fall into. I roll my eyes at reader hate mail all the time for doing the
exact same thing – only they usually claim I'm either "bias" or a moron for not
agreeing with them. My attempt to rationalize dissenting opinions might be a
little more reasoned (if I do say so myself), but it's just as pointless.
Discussing Knack with people has been a humbling reminder
that opinions are ultimately opinions, and even likeminded people disagree some
times. And that's okay; other gamers don't need to like Knack for me to enjoy
it, and I don't need metacritic scores to prove my opinion of the game is more
valid than others. That's a lesson everyone needs to be reminded of now and
Are you enjoying
Knack? Share your totally justified praise or baseless criticisms in the
Email the author Jeff Marchiafava, or follow on Google+, Twitter, and Game Informer.