Opinion – What I Learned While Arguing About Knack
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 people's opinions.
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 again.
Are you enjoying Knack? Share your totally justified praise or baseless criticisms in the comments below.