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December 6, 2013
Knack - PS4 Review
Release Distributer Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
29/11/2013SonySonySony Japan1-2None
Media HDD Install Resolution Touchpad PS4 Exclusive OFLC Rating
Disc37GB1080pNoYesPG

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Knack is a rather cute little, ermm, creature!
With the launch of the PlayStation 4 in November 2013 came a glut of launch titles which had previously been released on the PS3, and as such, there was little beyond visual enhancements to entice players. To us, one of the most exciting PS4 titles was Knack - an all-new Intellectual Property from Mark Cerny, the lead designer of the PlayStation 4, and also someone who has had a large input on franchises including Crash Bandicoot, Spyro, Ratchet & Clank, and Resistance. See why we were keen to check out Knack?

In this game mankind must turn to an unlikely hero named Knack to protect them from a dangerous new threat with Goblins, led by Gundahar, seeking to destroy us. The Doctor (a not-so-mad scientist) studied ancient relics from a long lost civilization for many years, and finally found a way to bind them together and give them consciousness. The result is Knack, a creature with mysterious powers – for one, he can incorporate more relics into his body as he finds them, which allows him to transform from a three-foot tall creature into a gigantic wrecking machine.

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Knack gets pretty massive at times.
Whenever a new console is launched there is a massive amount of pressure put on developers to get titles out to showcase what the new system is capable of and, indeed, we have seen a few games such as Watch Dogs and Driveclub slip only weeks from the next-gen launch. Sony's Knack did make it out for launch, and it offers something for the whole family. Somewhat surprisingly Knack is much less of a "platforming" game then the developers would have you believe, with a heavy focus on melee combat and a few special moves to get Knack moving along a rather linear path, taking on several enemies before moving down the next path and taking on the next batch of enemies. If it sounds repetitive it is and the 12 hour runtime does seem a little excessive.

While the game is pretty fun to play, is technically polished in terms of combat and there is a decent variety in enemies, Knack is not without several glowing issues that holds it back. Strangely, despite the fact that this title is aimed at a younger audience the difficulty spikes in the game are often glaring, not least of which some enemies which will see you die due to a single hit and with some checkpoints spaced well apart you may be repeating sections of the game several times over (Now that I hear that, gamers these days are going pretty soft - remember the days when a death would result in needing to replay the entire level, or indeed send you back to the start of the game! Ahhh, they were the days...). Also annoying is the fact that as you progress through the game you can collect items to give you special abilities - however these take so long to collect you won't even get anything before the first half of the game is over.

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Knack, made of wood, and on fire!
Moving on to a couple of other annoyances there is no ability to control the camera in the game and, at times, the cameras position will have then enemies, or even Knack, off the screen. Also annoying is the frequency with which Knack gets shrunk back down to a smaller form after getting bigger which is when things start getting fun. Being able to pick up cars, smash up buildings and take on tanks is much more entertaining than taking on small insects or goblins when Knack is only a couple of feet tall.

Other issues revolve a rather dull storyline despite some rather gorgeous pre-rendered cut-scenes that would look great in a major CG feature film. In fact the cut-scenes lack any spark, and more disappointingly any sense of humour despite conveying a moderately entertaining, if largely forgettable, story. While Sony's previous key platform franchises including Crash Bandicoot, Jak & Daxter, Ratchet & Clank and even Uncharted have moments of levity to break up the action. This game is pretty much devoid of any humor, and it brings the entire game down as a result.

Perhaps I’ve sounded overly critical about this game, but we have to point out that none of these issues are “game breaking” and we still had plenty of fun playing the game – but rather than wanting to play it in one long sitting due to the repetitive nature we felt it was more enjoyable playing it in several shorter spurts of a couple of hours.

There is, though, one other little surprise with Knack - it's that the game includes co-op play where the second person, on a PSVita, can play as Robo Knack. We had limited opportunity to test this out, but we did for a short while and it's pretty entertaining and adds to the family friendly nature of the game.

Knack is also playable via Remote Play on the PlayStation Vita when connected to the PlayStation 4 - as will most titles with the exception being those that need the camera. This works quite well, certainly better than we expected, and while it's not perfect (We think there may be smoe issues with fast-paced shooters for instance), it’s a welcome addition to the console.

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Knack's cut-scenes are quite fantastic.
There is one final aspect to this game which is worth mentioning - that being an App called "Knack's Quest" for iOS and Android phones. This mini-game doesn't link into this game in terms of storyline - it's really a puzzle game only - however it does allow you to unlock items and content which can then be imported back into the main PS4 game. In any case this App is free and anyone can download and play it (Even without a PS4 or Knack).

Whenever we move from one generation to the next the biggest, most immediate change, is that to the visuals and it's true that the 1080p presentation here provides a razor sharp image that looks pretty spectacular especially during the pre- rendered cut-scenes. When we get into the actual gameplay things take a bit of a turn for the worse. While everything is clean and moves pretty well (although there are very occasional moments of slowdown and certainly rather frequent clipping issues) the game looks very bland with narrow pathways through levels, confined areas to battle in, and a lack of real jaw- dropping moments.

Sonically Knack is decent, if unspectacular with a decent range of effects and some nice music while the surround sound channels get a decent workout too. As one of the first games I've played on the PS4 I had totally forgotten about the speaker on the controller and when Knack started to collect blocks to grow in size the controller emitted a clinky sound not dissimilar to that in the Lego video games. It gives eimmediacy to the action on-screen and we can't wait to see what other developers do with audio from the controller.

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Knack, and often fun, but uninspiring game.
In general the voice work in this game is pretty decent with some decent banter between the main characters - with one exception. Perhaps the most disappointing aspect about this game is the lack voice work for Knack. He says a couple of words here and there, but hardly enough to give him a personality. It would have even been fun to have some moments with Knack's voice changing as he changes size. Alas, another missed opportunity.

Ultimately Knack is best described as an inoffensive, rather linear, family-friendly game that does little to show off the power of next-generation consoles, but offers something different from the glut of FPS's at launch and may be a game that holds some long-term appeal as a new IP on Sony's new console. It's far from essential, but young teenagers may find some enjoyment in Knack but it's far from being a classic.

Review By: Dave Warner

GRAPHICSClean and functional, but besides the resolution, it's not next-gen jaw-dropping and the slowdown and lack of camera control hurts.
59%
SOUNDThere's no issues with the audio, but it's not memorable, and Knack lacks personality.
70%
GAMEPLAYSadly this isn't a classic like Mark Cerny's Crash Bandicoot. Difficulty spikes, linear, a bit meh.
60%
VALUEAround 12 hours for the main game, no multiplayer, not a stand out title but at a full price.
55%
OVERALLKnack isn't a great platforming or action title but among the glut of PS4 shooters it stands out as a title the whole family can enjoy. Sure, there are some disappointments but it's a passable new IP on Sony's new console.
63%

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