By Gabe Carey
I wanted it to be good…
Among my most disappointing affairs this year, Japan Studio’s platform beat ‘em up, Knack is among the worsts. With game development veteran and PlayStation 4 architectural designer Mark Cerny directing the homage to some of the greatest PS One classics of all time, my first impression of the game, based on early footage alone, was ironically, “What could possibly go wrong?” Unfortunately karma got the best of my unprecedented confidence in the game and Knack is now occupying a space on my shelf that will soon, with bold optimism, be replaced with a game with a little more quality assurance backing it, assuming someone would be as naive as I was in purchasing this filth.
I use the word filth lightly, though, as the game isn’t horrendous, however it had so much potential to be good, and a plethora of talent behind it to assuredly build expectations. With Sony publishing the game as a showcase for the PS4′s technical ability, one would expect this monetary value to be demonstrated on-screen, or to at least emphasize an aspect of the game that could only be made possible on the new console’s innate stamina. Instead, what we’ve received here is a beautifully animated PS One game with all of the flaws of the PlayStation 1 and none of the interesting gameplay mechanics.
After initially reading the reviews for Knack and closely observing its criticisms, I was admittedly in denial of the possibility that this game could be bad.
“But it’s like playing a Pixar movie,” I thought to myself. “How bad could it be?” At that moment, my conscience creeped upon me and alerted me in my false skepticism.
In a blink of an eye, my PlayStation 4 had arrived in the palms of my hands, sweating emotionally as I awaited the arrival of my games. And voila! Hours later, I slid the retail copy of Knack into my new system’s discrete disc drive and began to play its campaign alone. For a few minutes, the game seemed fine, but opening in mediocrity, caused me to return to the more superior Killzone: Shadow Fall.
I later returned to my playthrough of Knack, along with a friend of mine, when we decidedly began to play the game’s co-op mode, which is evidently the game’s strongest quality. The co-op mode is nothing significant or innovative, of course, but the fact that it’s offered is a rare trait to pertain to in this generation of gaming. Unlike earlier, however, this time I noticed the exceedingly lengthy load screen being incorporated, surprisingly so following Sony’s announcement in February that load screens would be eliminated. It would be unfair of me to expect complete elimination of loading screens, but to be so noticeable is an apparent flaw, especially on such powerful new hardware. This was an apparent design flaw.
Knack fails at nearly everything it aims to achieve. As a “next-gen” launch title, it’s visually lackluster. As a platformer, it’s repetitive and uninteresting. As a story, it’s confusing and poorly written. While I’d earlier hoped for this game to be the PS4′s Crash Bandicoot, it was inevitably everything but. Its story, full of fallacy and a generic plot which seems as if it should belong to a forgettable Dreamworks Animation film, is conveniently overshadowed by one-dimensional characters and poor dialogue. The story itself feels as if it was an afterthought, at which point I question why the developer decided to include it at all. 3D platformers have proved worthy, time and time again, without the need for cut-scenes or voice acting, and the vision for Knack’s story seems uninspired and manufactured.
An unfavorable narrative wouldn’t make a difference to me if the gameplay were to compensate. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. The gameplay is repetitive, and although some mechanics are interesting, such as Knack’s ability to increase and decrease in size, while also incorporating various substances into his body, allowing for variety in gameplay. However, ultimately this doesn’t justify lengthy, frustrating boss battles and repeating animations seen throughout the game which, in single player, becomes redundant after a couple of hours. Multiplayer-wise the game is fun just to mock its poorly executed mechanics.
Japan Studio’s Knack is a trainwreck, exactly what’s to be expected from a console launch title. It’s likely a game we’ll forget in a few years unless sales numbers prove worthy of a sequel. Although, if you like quick-time events without consequence for not abiding by them, cringe-worthy screenwriting, and repetitive platforming, it may be the game for you. On the other hand, you may want to seek elsewhere for your platforming desires this year. I heard there’s a mustachioed plumber who’s starring in a cutting-edge adventure that just released recently.
Bullogna Score: 3.9/10! Bad
Gabe Carey is Editor-In-Chief at B-TEN.com. He is a ladies’ man, but only on the Internet.
You can sympathize for him by reading his thoughts on Twitter @Thats_Bullogna.
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