Oh my God what is this? A launch title for PlayStation 4 that could have been a launch title for PlayStation 2 is what!
Given away to PlayStation Plus Subscribers in February 2018, I’d heard bad things, but gratis seemed the perfect price point to give it a go anyway.
The graphics are, as is often the case, the first thing to notice. Bland, shiny, bad. Textures with little texture to them. Animation is as generic as it is possible to make it. The music is your standard heroric fare, unremarkable. Gameplay is pure early-2000s with flashes of inspiration from the likes of Spyro the Dragon and Jak & Daxter – i.e. boring, linear, uninspired design. Combat tries hard to take cues from God of War, particularly with its use of the right stick to dodge, but fails terribly by being too slow, clunky, and frustratingly difficult for all the wrong reasons.
Often I found myself fighting enemies surrounded by walls that were too tall to navigate within the games engine, and when all enemies were dispatched, I’d get to watch a cut scene of Knack effortlessly climbing said wall. So why then is navigating the standard levels so annoyingly restricted?
Most upsetting to my gaming sensibilities is the main man himself – Knack. Besides being designed by a five year old and made out of yoghurt pots and polystyrene, Knack is presented to us as something of a super-powered killer robot. Then in the first stage after the tutorial (in which he smashes his way effortlessly through the best security bots available) he is himself smashed to pieces by a gust of wind from a bird’s wings, or by the jaws of a beetle….
The central mechanic to the game is the ability to grow in both size and power (and health) by collecting trinkets from around the stages. Being bigger makes you more susceptible to certain attacks that you could duck under when smaller, but generally the extra health and attack power make progress a little easier.
Though progress is not particularly easy. Your attacks are so slow that whilst you’re attacking one enemy, another will wind up and attack you almost unavoidably. I’m sure with time I could get better at using the dodge to my advantage – I’m pretty good at God of War’s similar fighting – but honestly I can’t be bothered. This game is so far from fun that I’m uninstalling it now and regretting that it will forever show in my library.
One final thing I’d like to moan about (while we’re here) are the “hidden” secrets dotted about. The most obviously different walls hide secret chests that contain upgrades and health items. The best they could come up with to make it less obvious is to have some of those walls require 2-3 hits to crumble – whilst animating them so it’s clear they are crumbling so you don’t stop.
Knack? More like knackered.
That pun was better than any aspect of this travesty. It belongs in 2001 on two generation old hardware, and would not be considered amongst the best games even then.