Knack

Review: Knack

Knack: A.K.A. rinse, repeat, repeat again, repeat *again*, throw controller out of the window.

Knack: A.K.A. rinse, repeat, repeat again, repeat *again*, throw controller out of the window.

First and foremost, I'd like to start this review by saying it made me very glad to discover that this game hit only 54% overall on metacritic... And if that doesn't set the tone for this post, then I don't know what will!

I had relatively high hopes for Knack starting my experience off; I thought the mechanics of gathering so called relics (basically stones with super powers) to build "Knack" (relic powered main character) and increase his size and damage output were quite neat. Also, as PlayStation released this as another free game this month alongside the beautiful Rime, I thought it would be held in a good stead. At least to start with... It doesn't take long for the realisation to settle in that you have to have a real knack to play this game (I do not apologise for the pun). I'm going to interject quickly with some audio thoughts before I get as mad as I did when playing this game.

So as far as the music goes in this game, I thought it replicated a kind of Ratchet and Clank-esque vibe. It does the job and effectively conveys the theme of the game/level, but it's always in the background so you tend to phase it out quite quickly. It doesn't really have the orchestral power of other games such as Destiny 2, but that's to be expected from a kid's game. Sound design wise Knack is very much a case of hit and miss. There were some good elements in there, particularly in the case of how ice shards sink in the immersion feeling as they play around with the mechanics, and more so some of the sound effects for breaking down walls I thought were on the clean side of things. However, certain enemy types were slightly unconvincing from a sound perspective and, frankly, there were some very flat sounding explosive sounds. 

Anyway that brings me to the end of being remotely nice. Sit back and enjoy this white knuckle ride of distaste. 

First of all I want to say that I don't think I'm necessarily bad at games, in fact I'd say I'm pretty good at some. But Knack seemed to be on an entirely new level of difficulty for me, considering I was playing on normal mode. I just couldn't understand why enemies would deal so much damage, and why health was so hard to regenerate. In the end I mounted a full on rage quit and deleted the game, which is something I have never, ever, EVER, done before. 

The long and short of it is, the combat system, which this game is ENTIRELY centred around, is flawed to the highest degree. Furthermore, the checkpoint system is absolutely relentless. The game follows a strong focus on linearity, moving from one combat sequence to another, which already is pretty uninventive. But this linear nature is coupled with simplistic, and sometimes impossible, combat. In turn this makes the game tiring and tedious; there's no incentive for moving between sequences, other than a dry story line which offers very little incentive in the first place (we'll come back to that point later though). What needs to be expressed though is how backwards the combat mechanics are. First of all we're introduced to some basic one-button combat on square (classic.) and a short dodge on the right analog stick. This is all well and good, and you'd think this would work perfectly well, but the movement involved in both the attacks and the dodging is effectively minimal. You move a matter of centimetres when dodging, which makes dodging meaningless, and the hit box on the attacks is so small you'll spend most of your time swinging at an enemy only to get caught out in between attacks and lose most of your health. Which brings me onto the next point: the health system.

As we said earlier, the game utilises relics as a means of building up Knack, but they also serve as the health system. You can increase your max health or regain health lost by destroying crates and containers with relics inside them. You would have thought this would be a good idea, until you realise how infrequently these crates actually spawn... and more so the fact that this is the ONLY WAY to regenerate health. FURTHERMORE, the amount of health dished out by these crates is so pitiful that there is just no point in even bothering to pick them up. EVEN FURTHERMORE, is the fact that the enemies deal such a high level of damage that there is no point to having a health bar in the first place. Even low level enemies have the capability to seemingly destroy not just Knack, but a small housing estate in the process, like some low budget Godzilla style film. So to sum up the situation, imagine you're a moderately sized flea, wandering through a world of giants armed with V2 rockets, and the only solace from the megaton destruction is a sparse assortment of Jacob's cracker crumbs. These enemies are relentless, even on normal difficulty, to the point that it makes the game unbelievably frustrating on a Super Meat Boy level. It is also incredibly hard to dodge these enemies, down to the fact that they possess an uncanny level of accuracy and determination. The targeting system on the enemies is unrelenting; you'd normally expect an enemy in game to start an attack and settling on a sole direction with which to launch that attack, this isn't the case when it comes to Knack. No, enemies will target Knack for the duration of the attack, making the dodging even more useless, as the timing involved with effectively dodging a life threatening attack boils down to a matter of femtoseconds. By the end of this I actually felt sorry for Knack, he'd been killed by the same enemies, in the same sequences, and respawned at the same checkpoint two kilometres back. I could feel his stoney blood boiling.  

Accurate representation of both mine and Knack's feelings.

Accurate representation of both mine and Knack's feelings.

I'm going to sum this up before I rant on any further: Knack is a kids game for kids who hate themselves. Over the couple of hours before I ended up rage quitting, I didn't get a lot of enjoyment out of the process. Like I say, I think some of the mechanics are interesting and the sound design has some decent moments in it. But the combat is so impossible and so frequent that it really makes this game frankly unplayable. TL;DR - don't pay money for this game.