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Knack Review: A pretender to the platforming throne

on 20 November 2013

Knack desperately wants to be like the Crash Bandicoots and Spyros of old, but it falls short in more than a few key areas. Controls and movement are solid (if a bit imprecise), and there's a good amount of aesthetic value in the game's colorful (if generic) cartoon style, but Knack overstays its welcome by placing undue focus on a laughably overwrought story, pointless characters, and combat that gets the energy of old-school platforming right but not the soul. The result offers decent co-op fun and a singleplayer journey with two extremes. At its peak, when platforming meets twitch combat, Knack is mildly enjoyable. But for every moment like this, there's another where you'll be backing out to the PS4 Dynamic Menu looking for something--anything--else to do on your new console.

It's odd of me to decry a game that's quite a bit longer than expected for overstaying its welcome, but Knack does exactly that. Brief cutscenes are littered across all of the game's 13 chapters, with longer ones between chapters. All attempt to tell an interesting story about how goblins hate humans and humans want to find relics to fuel scientific discovery, but uninteresting characters and insipid dialogue abound. Dramatic story beats are portrayed with so little enthusiasm--from voice acting to presentation and animation--as to feel like a complete waste of my time. When cutscenes and story development don't serve as entertainment reward for clearing a difficult section or conquering a particularly aggravating checkpoint, they just feel like padding to a game's length.

It doesn't help that the Doctor and Lucas, your two most frequent companions throughout the game, hang carefully behind while you clear room after room of baddies, only to inexplicably appear when transitioning to a new checkpoint. By the end of the game, I honestly sympathized more with the greedy, human-city-attacking goblins: at least they didn't tag along in the shadows, spouting completely meaningless dialogue and taking credit for all my hard work.