Knack follows in the tradition of the PlayStation classic Crash Bandicoot - if the eponymous marsupial was made up of hundreds of individual particles. The game brief reads like a test programme for a graphics card: the protagonist is a collection of small multi-shaped polygons in a cloud that creates the outline of a troll-like character.
In this way, Knack is more a nebulous mass than a solid being. As he collects more relics, his size increases; once he reaches a certain size, though, being hit removes particles - rather than decreasing his size. I first noticed this when, after one battle sequence, I realised that the wounded Knack was missing a large chunk of his leg.
It’s a wonderful, subtle way to show off the power of the new console, especially in a game that seems designed for kids.
The gameplay is fairly simple platformer stuff. Smash stuff to find pick-ups; figure out each baddie’s particular attack move and learn to counter it; jump; jump again; find secret areas; wonder who would design a factory that’s this hard to get through.
At times, the simplicity does get boring. While the bad guys are varied throughout the game, there are really only four different types. And nearly all of the jumps are double jumps. Little things like that do begin to bug you.
But Knack is also full of little things that are wonderful. My favourite part is when Knack expands. Finding a cache of relics does two things: it refills your health (you’ll need to do this often) and it increases your size. But each cache is fairly small (with the exception of some large, story driven ones), so your size increases slowly (almost imperceptibly) as you play. Suddenly, you’ll notice that the baddies who once towered over you are your size and can be killed with one punch - instead of three.
Knack can use different materials (other than the basic relics) from time to time. The glass form of Knack is “Stealth Knack”, while “Abominable Knack” is made with ice and slowly melts in sunshine.
Personally I found big Knack to be more fun than small Knack, but maybe I just like smashing stuff. And Knack can get pretty damn big.
Given Knack’s format the online options aren’t deep, but they are pretty cool. As you progress through the game, there are hidden rooms with chests in them. The chests contain either parts for gadgets or gemstones. Each item you find has a different rarity value (I wasn’t able to tell if you difficulty setting of the game gave you more rare items). When you find a chest, the game gives you the option to take what you found OR what your PSN friends got when they found the same chest.
Thankfully, our own Matthew Codd had been grinding through the levels ahead of me, and had uncovered a lot of useful rare stuff. He did note that if I should “open any [chests] where I’ve found a Diamond Relic take it!” as “farming them is a pain in the ass”.
There is also a local multiplayer mode, where Knack is joined by Robo-Knack. I wasn’t able to play this as the console only came with one controller, but from what I’ve seen it looks like more of the same.
I quite liked Knack, despite it’s repetitive gameplay. The characters in the story (which I haven’t mentioned because it’s fairly simple kid’s movie type stuff) are pretty well done albeit incredibly stereotypical (the smart kid; the grumpy professor; the bad guy with a beard.) Knack himself is a fairly fun character, though his deep resonant voice was odd given it doesn’t change as his size changes.
“Wow that little guy sounds like Barry White!”