This review ran on our Facebook Page on February 1st, 2015. We are putting it on this website to unify our reviews
Let me start this review with a story.
Whenever I buy a new console, I spend days and weeks thinking of which game (or games) to buy for it. The first game is the most important game I get, because it's the one that must make me want to play the system and want to buy subsequent games. This is easier to do for dead consoles because the total library is more or less set. However, for a launch day system, it is absolutely critical. If I don't like my number one pick, then I will have a hard time finding a replacement amidst the 20 or so other games on launch day. When the time came to pre-order my PS4, September of 2013, I could only afford one game for the system. My list was narrowed down to four options: Watch Dogs, Driveclub, Injustice, and Knack. At this point I felt like I was scraping the bottom of the barrel, and was deeply questioning the point in picking up the system on launch day even was. I had to narrow it down to one, so I axed off Injustice and Driveclub, as those were more multiplayer focused games and I didn't have another controller. So Watch Dogs and Knack it was. Now, based on the name of this review, and the fact that this story is even opening this review, you can imply that I put money down for... Watch Dogs. Yeah, wasn't I a genius? I chose Watch Dogs because the Open World nature would have a better chance of lasting me longer than a launch day platformer like Knack. But as we all know, Watch Dogs was pushed six months back to ensure quality blandness, so I was forced to go back to Knack. It's funny because Driveclub was also pushed back around the same time Watch Dogs was, so I was back down Knack and Injustice. What's even funnier is that I bought my PS4 at Walmart, and Watch Dogs at Gamestop because Walmart would only let me preorder one of five games, one of them being Knack and one of them not being Watch Dogs. So I ran to Walmart to get the PS4 while my dad ran to Gamestop to get Knack, which was completely avoidable if I could predict Ubisofts delay schedule.
This lengthy story, in a nutshell, means one thing: I wasn't too happy going into Knack in the first place. So imagine my disappointment when I also found out that Knack was one of the worst games I've played in recent years. Now, I try to stick to buying quality games, unless I get a bad game for free, or if it's too funny to not buy a bad game (ie Superman 64). And Knack had some clout going for it. It was designed by Mark Cerny, who not only was the lead architect on the PS4 system itself, but also worked on games like Sonic 2 and Crash Bandicoot. So how on earth could Knack go bad? How on earth indeed. The first thing I should point out is that Knack is not a platformer, no matter what anyone tells you. Knack is a beat 'em up. Sure, you might have to jump to higher ground. But that is it. There's no multiple pathways. There's no secret power ups or collectables. There's no timing based platform puzzles. There's not even puzzles. Knack is a game about going into a room, punching things to death, and moving on to the next room. That's a beat 'em up, no matter what kind of cartoony characters you plaster on it. It has a mechanic where he grows with the more relics he collects, but other than that, it's about as basic as a beat 'em up can get.
Every time I boot the game up, including when I booted it up for this review, I wonder why I'm so harsh on this game. But Knack is a slow acting kind of poison. Right around the time I think "This isn't so bad", my thoughts change to "This game is making me feel kind of sick". This is because once you play long enough, you realize that Knacks gameplay doesn't change through out the entire adventure. You reasonably expect a game to get more complicated as it goes along, changing to keep itself interesting. Almost any game, good or bad, sees this and tries to keep up the pace in different ways. Knack doesn't do that. The forest level plays just like the city level, which plays just like the air ship level. You could re-skin every stage with a different stages textures and find pretty much zero differences between them.
As stated above though, Knack doesn't seem to focus on the stages like a platformer should, it focuses on the combat. Which is something Knack most definitely should not focus on. First off, I should point out that Knack is a pretty difficult game. I've died quite a lot in Knack, but like many poorly designed games, it wasn't because the games design outsmarted me, it was because enemies are insanely powerful. No matter how big or small Knack gets, he will take only two or three hits before he explodes. So really, the whole mechanic of growing as the stage progresses is null and void, since it doesn't affect a single thing. The level design doesn't change, and the enemies are always the same difficulty, so growing in size basically means the camera zooms out a little more and that's about it. Second off, the actual combat controls are flat. A punch button, and a special attack button. You have three different specials, each costing one special meter. That is the extent of Knacks combat. Arkham Asylum this is not.
I do remember two times the game actually branched out and explored new ideas. The first time was when Knack had to equip himself with ice. This gave him a time limit in the sun and thus making the player come up with ways to get through the stage faster. It would have been nice if they re-used this idea in a later stage, but they didn't. The second time was when Knack absorbed some crystals and could become "Stealth Knack". When you press Triangle, Knack would drop all his collected relics and remain as just crystals. This could be used to bypass lasers and get Knack into small openings. See, that is a small speck of good design. And this one even appears twice. But it's still not used to anywhere near its full potential. The idea was there, but nothing really clever came of it.
Knack does have a plot, but it's more of a reason to get from area to area if anything. A scientist discovers Knack, who is made of these ancient relics that power the world. There's a young boy and an Indiana Jones adventurer, who are with the scientist, and an evil corporate guy who wants to do bad things with this ancient power. I could list names and places and details, but it all doesn't mean anything. The voice actors for these characters do a good job, and the cutscenes actually look very nice. But it's just a boring, forgettable plot that never once surprised me. After beating Knack, you unlock a special features menu, which has a level select menu, a time attack, and an arena mode. Time Attack just takes segments of stages and scores you on how fast you do it, and Arena mode is just a series of endless battles, much like the game itself. You can scroll through the blandest menus you've ever had the misfortune to look at, and then you officially have seen everything Knack has to offer.
Knack isn't a good game. There is nothing about Knack that makes me feel like I spent my time wisely. It's the only game I own on my PS4 that is PS4 exclusive too, making my entire PS4 experience a true waste. Nothing redeemable and nothing worth noting, Knack is a game to pass up.
FINAL VERDICT: Not a chance
ONE SENTANCE REASONING: Knack is a boring beat 'em up that has few redeeming qualities and unfit to be in anyone's gaming library.