When I was a young person with my first set of games, I had Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon. This made me love the platformer genre. This isn’t some “90’s kids ruled, like this if you agree” sort of business, but what this showed also was that children could handle occasionally frustrating, obtuse, difficult challenges, because when they were done, having gotten all the little hidden secrets made it all worth it. Kids these days get Knack, which, isn’t bad, but seems to make the assumption children are all phenomenally more stupid than history has proven them to be.
Knack is set in a sort of Astro Boy-meets-generic cute fantasy setting. Robots and sci-fi abounds together with the primary enemies being warlike Goblins and Trolls. The titular Knack is a very special robot constructed by a benevolent Dr Light sort of figure to combat these nasty goblins and such. There’s very little black and white here, Good Guys are super good, and Bad Guys make you incredibly exasperated that the good guys didn’t notice that were going to betray you at every possible moment. Nevertheless, the cast of characters is diverse, if not memorable. Knack himself has a stunningly sexy voice, similar in fact to the Man Your Man Could Smell Like from those viral videos, which I found pretty cute at times on him.
The main gameplay of Knack involves fighting enemies in rooms, progressing down corridors with simple jumps until more enemies are reached. Knack grows by collecting small particles, meaning that each level begins with him being tiny, and by the end has him sometimes reaching Godzilla like proportions. This is fun, but the fact that only very certain particles do it makes it tiresome, and you are often forced to shrink down again as the plot commands. Combat consists of hitting and dodging, both of which are very smooth, but which sometimes seems to be insanely difficult for no good reason, presenting an odd jump from other gameplay. Enemies have the capacity to kill Knack in one or two hits most of the time, and when many arrows are flying around, this is often more frustrating than enjoyable, and as this is 90% of the gameplay, this is somewhat of a problem, as the game is reduced to “figure out which order to press buttons in, as there is no other viable way to complete this section.”
In fact, the linear nature of Knack is its biggest downfall. There are pitifully few bonus areas, and they only contain nearly useless stat modifiers. There are no minigames, no interesting worlds, and no bonus to anything except going on to do the exact same thing you’ve been doing again and again since the prologue. I just feel quite cheated that games seem to have taken a step back noticeably in this genre. Knack is pretty, very beautiful in a cartoony sort of way, with great physics and controls, but doesn’t offer enough gameplay to justify its price tag, except for the very small kids, and even they may lose interest. A sort of okay game, but definitely not a memorable one.