The Average Gamer

Knack Review (PS4)

Knack - Combat Leap
Knack, the PS4-exclusive action-platformer, does a lot of small things very, very well and some big things very badly.

You play as Knack, a scientific experiment of mysterious relics brought to life by a fatherly scientist. If Knack is damaged, collecting the relics – that just happen to be lying around all the locations you visit – will heal him. Throughout the game he’ll also get bigger and stronger by absorbing these relics. You’ll never have to worry about staying strong enough to get bigger – the game will always ensure that Knack is the right size for each section .

You’ll also pick up power from sun crystals that allow you to pull off super moves, like a ranged attack that knocks out up to three enemies at once, or a move that sets your extra relics whirling about you like a particularly rocky and painful tornado.

Knack-the-game handles death very well and the clever bit lies in your sun power. When you die, your health bar resets but the sun power you’ve gathered does not. The sun crystals littered about the landscape also reset, so if you find yourself dying over and over again in the same place, you can keep storing up the power from these crystals to earn yourself a super move. Reach the tricky group of enemies, smash them in the face with a super move and you’re away to the next bit. It can take a few attempts to gather up enough power for a move, so this isn’t a die-to-win scenario. Instead, knowing that you’re slowly getting more and more powerful even as you screw up a section for the fifth time really helps the old self-motivation.

However, this doesn’t help you much where you’d most want it to – on the boss battles. The game’s normal checkpoints are reasonably well-placed. Only the very final boss has mid-battle checkpoints though. For the previous three bosses, you’ll probably get right to the end of a three-phase fight only to make one wrong dodge and it’s all the way back to the beginning.

Knack - Combat KillBoss battles are quite lengthy affairs as well. While a normal fight ussually just needs you to wait for an attack, dodge and follow up with a flurry of blows, the bosses usually introduce weapons or shields that you’ve never seen before. As a result, you’ll probably learn by dying instead of applying the techniques that you’ve developed throughout the rest of the game. What seems like an interesting fight at first, by the fifth, seventh, tenth time you’ve had to repeat the opening phase it’s just become a dull slog of rote mechanics.

The story is absolute bobbins and all the characters comes across as rather too cartoon earnest or pointlessly evil, but everything looks fabulous. The PS4 allows developers to do some beautiful things with lighting and anyone going from the PS3 or Xbox 360 will appreciate the massive draw distances on landscapes with nary a whiff of fog.

Progression is handled wonderfully. You’ll start as tiny Knack, facing bugs, goblins and humans that tower above you. As chapters continue, Knack will get bigger and sometimes gather temporary new powers like stealth, thanks to some glass crystals, or a shield made up of ice shards. Later in the chapter you’ll face the same creatures but this time swat them away without even blinking.

Knack - ClimbingThere are plenty of variations on the action as well – at times you’ll be sneaking around warden robots on patrol in a dark park, stealthing through lasers as a glass version of yourself or floating on the wind from powerful fans in a factory. Gaining all those new tricks feels great but for various story reasons you’ll always revert back to tiny Knack and have to build yourself up again.

This shouldn’t be such a bad thing but after every big story moment, you’re dropped back into a slow section facing the same weak bugs and goblins that you’ve battled dozens of times before. With 13 chapters, that’s a lot of repetition and it just feels like padding.

For collectors, there are plenty of bits and bobs to discover behind breakable walls, which provide abilities like gaining sun power through kills. You probably won’t complete many on your first run through the game, so these are more about keeping things replayable. Given the tedium of the boss battles though, I can’t see most people enjoying that.

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