rAge 2013: Knack, The Crash Bandicoot Of Next-Gen, Not Quite!
I had many preconceptions going into playing Knack, on PS4, at rAge this year. I was expecting the console’s attempt at producing a Crash Bandicoot level mascot to punt the PS4 to a younger generation, as Sony did with the PS1, perhaps trying to capture the glory days of the PlayStation brand. Outright, I was sorely mistaken with a game which doesn’t know quite what it wants to be, as evidenced by the demo on display. The first problem I ran into was that the demo doesn’t show all that much off of the game, with the exception of some basic combat and slight platforming. What is really on show is the game’s particle physics.
From the outset when you start playing Knack, it definitely feels like the game is having an identity crisis. It has bright cartoon-inspired visuals reminiscent of PS2 platformers, but has a difficulty level that can be harder for a younger audience who would casually play a game like this. It seems that Mark Cerny and SCE Japan Studio don’t know which demographic they are aiming for with Knack, and this is quite worrisome.
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The demo I played at rAge gave only a slight indication of the what the whole overall game will be like. But nonetheless it didn’t feel all that inspired. Anyway, the demo follows that Knack is a magical creature with a ‘knack’ to incorporate different elements and substances into his own body be it metal, wood, ice and such. Incorporating these elements and substances gives Knack new abilities from level to level. The story isn’t fleshed out that much in the demo, but rather gameplay was the focus of this outing with Knack.
The demo has you in Knack’s wood form increasing your size by collecting more pieces of wood and bolstering Knack’s abilities by picking up a power-up, and using one of his powered up abilities in combat. The combat is particularly challenging, and has you pitted against enemies with flaming crossbows and an assortment of weaponry attacking you. When Knack takes damage his size decreases and because he is composed of wood in the level on show, if he catches fire his health begins to decrease gradually as you play. This is one of the disadvantages of being made of wood.
Knack takes on enemies by smashing through their defenses with melee combos and jump attacks where he crushes opponents with his tremendous strength. All of which, is gained by collecting wood pieces and dodging enemy attacks, and not catching on fire. This is all a bit commonplace and doesn’t do anything to differentiate Knack from other platformers like Ratchet And Clank. On another level, it feels far more basic, but the challenge is still there, albeit inconsistent, within the demo.
This may be different in the end product, but all I have to comment on is the demo I played at rAge which isn’t the greatest indication of the game as a whole. But if this is the whole experience, I’m not thoroughly impressed when you consider it as a next-gen game. Particle physics are great, but they do not make a game good even on the PS4.