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Cool concept, very unforgiving difficulty

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    Knack

    Rating: 3.0 – Fair

    Cool concept, very unforgiving difficulty

    A launch game has to at least be playable and at least competent. Knack is in that borderline area of it, but really not a strong title in PlayStation 4’s debut in November 2013. It’s not a bad concept on paper. There are some cool ideas that it uses along with power ups. Unfortunately, it is bogged down by an unforgiving difficulty that comes off very cheap. Not an abysmal game, but coming from Mark Cerny, this is disappointing.

    Plot: It’s a war between goblins and humans. Humans like harvesting relics which infuriate the goblins. Knack is a creation from Doctor Vargas who uses the power of the relics to grow into any size. With that, they go on a huge adventure to prevent the world from being destroyed. Without getting too much into the story, it’s okay. Nothing noteworthy, but has some twists you don’t think of when seeing a game like this.

    Graphics: This is a tech demo. That’s the only thing I can think of with Knack. It’s looks good though. If you were to demonstrate the PS4’s power early, then this isn’t such a bad choice. I see it more as the lighting aspect of it and cleaner visuals. It makes me think of something you would see out of a CGI kids cartoon. This is the best facet of the game.

    Audio: Nothing sticks out in Knacks audio. The music does have sense of action and adventure with distinct themes for certain areas. Unfortunately, it’s not too memorable. Voice acting was its best area. I’d say they got the characters nailed down to what their personalities are throughout the entire game. Maybe somewhat mediocre in a few scenes, but played out well. But overall, not the best, but it could be worse.

    Gameplay: Knack is a mesh of a few genres. It’s a mix of a beat em up combined with a platformer. As the title character, it’s a constant beating of various enemies that stand in your way. For being a package that comes in various sizes, controlling him is easy to grasp. He can jump and double jump along with attacking with his fists. There is a dodge feature. You will be using this quite a bit in order to get past certain obstacles if you want to stay alive.

    The game consists of 13 chapters. Each one has about two to five sections per chapter. It’s about as basic as you can get. You go from area to area, collecting relics and other items. There are no shortage of bad guys. A number of them can easily be forgotten, but a good chunk of the time, you will be forced to fight in order to advance to the next part. Now, these aren’t mainly short sections in these chapters. You will be amazed at the length in some of these. Sometimes, you think you are finished, but you’re not and have to continue until you get to where it tells you the next section.

    With the obvious, Knack can grow through use of the relics. He starts off very small, but various points throughout it, he expands into different sizes. Some of these can rival the likes of a Godzilla or King Kong. It also means his attacks are a lot more punishing and he can run over or stomp on objects. Some areas have some unique relics that are used in specific areas, but the purpose is still the same. However, this also reflects the health bar, which is lame. Being small means little to no health at all and the opposite with being huge. Why they couldn’t do a regular health bar at times, I don’t know.

    Relics are not the only thing you can get. Scattered throughout each area are sunstones. It reminds me of X-Men and Sonic Blast Man II as it serves as a super power. Knack has a few special moves that he can use, but he needs a full circle of sunstone power filled up. Depending on the power used, it can instantly take out the enemies that it’s targeting or hit them a few times and then it takes them out. You have to be wise about using it, though. It takes a while for it to fill up and it requires some strategy on when and where it should be used.

    If there is one thing this game is not afraid of doing, it’s the various enemies and hazards that they place. Most of the time, they are pushovers once you understand their patterns and their methods of attack. It’s a little disappointing that there isn’t a huge variety, but there is enough to where you’re not going to get bored of the same ones over and over. This does have a few bosses and their own ways of defeating them.

    Secrets are a plenty in Knack. Some are very obvious, but you will have to know the levels pretty well to know exactly what areas can be knocked down to get whatever is in a treasure chest. There are two distinct item collections. One is a gadget part. As you find more pieces of one, you can be able to use it once you find all the parts. The other is a crystal relic. With that, it makes Knack into some version of himself with one upgrade that benefits him. This stuff is random. I don’t know if it has to do with the difficulty or making each playthrough unique, but don’t expect the same thing every time.

    All that aside, it’s a very linear design with the levels. They don’t shove secrets behind every area in a chapter. That part is done well enough to where you can find most of them on your first try. There is a decent balance at times between having some platforming and then having beat em up tactics. It moves at a decent pace and is the type that feels like it needs to be played multiple times. But overall, there’s nothing new to it, but competent enough to know what it’s doing and going with some of the gimmicks that they throw in at certain points.

    You can choose from a few difficulty modes. It’s one of those games that requires beating it a few times to get the harder difficulties. As you go through it a few times, finding stuff and doing additional stuff, it adds more to the core game, giving it some replayability. It is also a two player game, but in that vein of Mario Galaxy.

    This all seems good, but one fatal flaw kills Knack and that is the difficulty. A beat em up is supposed to be hard somewhat and provide a decent challenge. Unfortunately, it doesn’t know that and it comes off very cheap. Getting hit once, you take too much damage and the harder difficulties could mean an instant death. Not even Konami arcade games from the early 90s were like this. Add in the abysmal way they did the health bar and it makes it artificially more difficult.

    Knack is one of those games that feels like you have to play it a second time to understand things. How much patience you have for playing this is up to you. The only other big complaint I have is the checkpoint system. It seemed like there should have been one in certain areas, but it doesn’t and you’re forced to re-do the same thing over and over. Some enemies are purely annoying, even if you know the patterns they have. If it wasn’t for the difficulty, this could have been at best a good game and at worst decent. Pretty disappointing considering Mark Cerny and the amount of platformers he has done going back to Sonic the Hedgehog 2.

    Replay Value: This is about a 10 hour game. There’s quite a bit going for it in terms of coming back to it.

    Recommendation: I wouldn’t suggest Knack unless you’re really looking for something on PlayStation 4. Really, it’s not a bad game, but the difficulty ruins the stuff that made it decent/good. Old school challenge is not a bad thing, but not like this.

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