The lights are on
As anyone inclined to read this review knows, Knack is a... controversial game, to say the least. As of this writing, it has a Metacritic score of 54, and was the unofficial whipping boy of the PS4 launch games, to the point where it was nominated for a couple "Worst Game of the Year" awards.
Is it, really? Not by any means. But it's hardly a flawless masterpiece, either.
Let's start with a brief recap. Knack takes place in an Arcanepunk world where mankind is waged in a neverending war against the goblins. One of the humans, Doctor Vargas, has been experimenting on magical devices known as relics, which the humans use to power their technology. Using an old artifact, he has found a way to bind them together such that they create a sentient being - the titular Knack. Using the newfound advantage Knack has given them, the humans make a push - only to find that not only have the goblins somehow gotten their hands on advanced technology, but one of their own, Viktor, wants Knack for his own nefarious purposes.
It's here that Knack runs into one of its first problems. While I personally enjoyed as an exercise in escapism and "good guys triumph" wish fulfillment, anyone going into Knack expecting a story that holds up to any scrutiny whatsoever will be very disappointed. The characters don't go much beyond the standard archetypes, you can pretty much tell instantly that Viktor is going to be the villain the moment you spot him, his motivations are never really explained (beyond simple greed, but that's hardly enough to justify half of what he does), and one of the biggest end-story twists is something you can see coming a mile away. All in all, I found it serviceable, but many will not.
That said, many will say that the story of a game doesn't matter as long as the gameplay is good. Unfortunately, Knack stumbles here as well. It's been described as a mix between Crash Bandicoot and God of War, but quite frankly, I would have liked more of the former and less of the latter. The platforming rarely poses much of a challenge, being mostly restricted to jumping up stairs on the way to the next fighting arena - there are a few sections where you actually need some skill, but they're not as common as I would have liked. As for the combat, this is where the majority of the complaints have historically been centered. One of Knack's major conceits is that he can absorb relics to increase in size, and this is usually shown by him starting a level out small and then having him end it by being rather large (just in time for a boss fight, where applicable). Unfortunately, this means that the combat balance is all out of whack. When Knack is small, most things will kill him in one hit, making many fights an exercise in frustration (luckily, checkpoint placement is thoroughly generous). When he is medium sized, the combat shines - you die in about 3-4 hits, but that balances nicely with the enemies going down in about 1-4, creating a tug of war as you dodge and jump before moving in to smack them with a one-two punch. When Knack grows to his largest, however, problems crop back up again, if not as bad as before - while he can take a lot of hits and kill non-boss enemies in (usually) one hit, he moves about as quickly as a swallow attempting to tow a crate full of molasses - which means that once you hit the boss fights, you will be liberally cursing the screen as you vainly attempt to dodge their attacks. It's not completely unbalanced, but it definitely needed some refinement.
To wrap up the review, I will not go into the graphics, as they are, of course, pretty good (in terms of art design and particle physics, anyway). All in all, Knack is a guilty pleasure for me - but from an overall perspective, it certainly isn't worth $60. If you must play it, rent it or wait until it reaches about $20, and in the meantime, pray that Sanzaru comes out with a Sly Cooper game for the PS4 sooner rather than later.
Pros: Shiiiny graphiiiics.... and the combat can be a barrel of button-mashing fun when its at its best.
Cons: The other half of the time, it can make you want to snap your controller in half; too little platforming; no replay value.
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