Knack wants to be the Crash Bandicoot for a new generation.
Its eponymous hero is a super-powered entity built out of magic relics, and he’s out to deal with marauding goblins that have been stealing relics from human outposts.
We're entitled to high expectations with this one. It is, after all, the first PS4 game from Mark Cerny, the brilliant mind behind the PS4 hardware itself.
But it seems as though all of that component-wrangling might have left him too little time to perfect his cartoony software contribution...
Every great platform game needs a compelling hero and, on first glance, Knack fits the bill.
He may be formed from the kind of trinkets a hippie would sell on a Camden Market stall, but the way he grows in size by absorbing more and more trinkets as he goes is impressively animated. It’s also undeniably cool when he gets big enough to run around smashing down walls and swatting enemies in the style of Godzilla.
Sadly, Knack’s qualities are undermined by his plain personality, which falls well short of the charm required of a truly great platform game hero.
Bash, jump, repeat
Knack’s mediocre persona is mirrored by the gameplay. While the simple controls function well, for the most part the corridor-like levels consist of little more than running around punching identikit enemies over and over.
There are sun crystals to collect that allow Knack to deliver killer moves, such as turning into a deadly trinket whirlwind, but they take so long to gather that you tend to hoard them rather than use them.
There are some puzzles, too, but they’re even rarer, and the platforming rarely moves away from basic hopping from ledge to ledge.
In its early stages Knack does hint that greatness lies ahead.
As you progress you find parts for gadgets that allow you to slow time or gather more sun power. These powers promise much but it takes so long to gather the necessary parts that you’ll have waded through more than half of the game before you get your mitts on any of them, by which time the excitement they offered has long been forgotten.
That these abilities are overloaded towards the end of the game means there’s relatively little chance to put them to good use.
More after the break...
For a game slanted towards children and families, Knack is surprisingly tough. Knack himself is irritatingly vulnerable - prone to instant deaths from single blows or hidden traps that border on plain unfair.
To make matters worse, the distances between checkpoints are too long and players are regularly forced to replay dull fights just to end up back where they got killed in the first place. It makes for a game that too often feels like an endurance test.
Scooby Doo-like story
The game’s story does little to keep you hooked either. While its cartoon world is distinctive and looks the part, its tale is more Scooby Doo than Pixar.
That’s not to say it’s a terrible story - it’s not - but it just isn’t engaging enough to keep players pressing on through the grind that makes up much of the game.
Knack is a missed opportunity.
There are plenty of good ideas here, from the super-sizing of Knack himself to the collectible gadgets, but few are exploited well. Then there’s the unexciting level design, Knack’s lack of personality and the irritating checkpoint locations.
It feels like a game for which too much development time was spent perfecting the character’s animation at the expense of realising the gameplay potential.
Needless to say, Knack doesn't make it into our Top 10 list of the best games in the world right now.
Knack’s cartoon adventure has some good ideas, but they're rarely used well