What went so wrong with Knack?
The Sony Japan Studio game, Knack, offered up lots of promise in the early stages of its announcements. It was a game I particularly looked forward to as well because everything about it looked fresh and unique. However things didn’t pan out the way I had hoped, with Knack receiving a very average 5 in my review. So below are a few changes I believe could have really pushed Knack to the next level, and put it up with the Crash Bandicoot level.
MORE. DAMN. CHECKPOINTS.
There are many things which can make people turn away from games, whether it is bad graphics or poor mechanics. But one thing that can ruin an entire game is checkpoint placement, especially for combat games. It is probably also the only thing that actually made me hate the game. Time after time after time I would have to fight through the same boring fights and clear about three or four waves, only to get killed on the last guy and start over.
It is a simple thing to get right, and something I think may have been severely overlooked in the development of Knack. Also the inclusion of a save system would have improved things more. One time I had to suddenly turn off my PS4 to go out, thinking that it would auto-save only to find out that I had to restart the chapter. It is one of those things where you don’t realise how important it is until it’s not there. Realistically it should also be a system that HAS to be implemented.
Larger variey of moves….please!
The first hour of Knack will most likely be the most fun for you, mainly because you get all these cool supermoves at the start and everything is new. That is until you slowly wade through the game with those same moves for the entire 12 hour campaign. As I said in my review, fighting becomes a tedious grind. What is perhaps the most annoying thing about it, is that there are aspects already in the game that should have been taken advantage of. At one stage in the game you absorb icicles in one of the cavern areas, and it really looks awesome.
I wanted to check out my special moves to see if I could create a blizzard or something similar, only to be left with the same moves. It really makes being able to absorb icicles, metal and wood just a cool looking costume. Being able to utilize moves specific to the objects you absorb would have been absolutely fantastic, and made combat more enjoyable. Even having a couple of different combo moves would have helped a bit, instead of just hitting the square button three times in a row. It definitely looks like a game for younger children, but they no doubt wanted to capitalise on the teenagers-young adults of the Crash Bandicoot generation.
It could have been the best of both worlds; younger kids could just mash buttons while the more nostalgic generation would craft various combo streaks. Again, 12 hours is quite a long game for this style, in which the combat sequences stretched on for far, far too long. Breaking it up with cool moves would have definitely made it not feel like such a chore to play.
Proper creative writing
Bash’em’up games aren’t typically story focused, so you could forgive a game for tacking on a weak story to the game. Yet with Knack it is a component that is repeatedly enforced. I don’t really see why they did though, the characters were stale and the story was convoluted. They got the visuals for it right, the characters looked perfect for this style of game. The environments were really varied and colourful too, but it was a stark contrast to the writing. It was very much black and white writing, even at climatic times it was below par.
As a creative writer myself, I found myself cringing at what each character was saying. Again, like the variations of knack, visually everything was there. But underneath the visuals was a skeleton put together all wrong. It just didn’t work, and almost seemed like a half-assed effort. Because of this, there was very little humour, and even when there was it was terrible. A funny, charming story would have complimented the creative visual style of Knack, but unfortunately it never worked.
Platforming & Puzzles
This is perhaps one of the more difficult components to implement, simply because it becomes a balancing act between addictively frustrating or rage-quit frustrating. Knack does have some platforming segments, but they are hardly worthy of being called that. They mainly go between jumping from one slow-moving ledge to the other, or navigating yourself through electric poles while hovering. They never really get creative with it. Even when unlocking doors, all you have to do is just relinquish your relics.
It seems like they created the idea of Knack and thought, “Well we already thought of something cool, I can’t be bothered with much more”. It even goes so low that in one of the segments, you run from the metal pile and absorb metal, run to the metal crusher and relinquish them. You have to do this about three or four times for who knows why. Sure its purpose it to allow you to advance to the next stage, but why does it have to be so tedious? Had there been more platforming or puzzles, it could have easily broken up the lack of variety in combat. It ended up basically being the worst of both worlds.
Later release date
Console release games usually carry very refined criticism. With typically only a handful of titles for players to enjoy, they come with perhaps unfair detailed focus over games released later. This can create a whole bunch of problems for developers. Simply because when the console releases, the big bosses expect the games to be. It can mean that under intense work schedules, games may never truly reach their potential that delaying a game can provide. Now I have no official knowledge of if Knack was released as the developers intended to be, or if it was victim to a strict deadline.
If it was the first one, well they never would have got a good game. If it was the latter however, it could have been very disappointing for the developer teams as well. Over the last couple years we have seen many games be pushed back to refine the game. Big titles like Bioshock, Grand Theft Auto V and most recently, Watch Dogs, have reaped the benefits of a delayed game(Watch Dogs excluded). I feel that if Knack had been released next year, it might not have received such focus criticism, and would have had time to implement some aforementioned game mechanics. But unfortunately, that didn’t happen and in turn we got a very average game.
Was your experience with Knack different to mine? Or perhaps you have a few things you’d like to add to my list, let us know in the comments below!