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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Knack.

TranscriptEdit

So Father Christmas finally pulled his finger out and brought me a PS4 (through his usual intermediaries at JB Hi Fi), so it's time to get caught up with the launch titles, starting with Knack, which would hopefully still be relevant 'cos all the kids who got it for Christmas probably haven't yet stopped crying angry betrayed tears. And just to briefly address those kids, "Ha ha ha! Nice job getting born just in time for the worst consoles, you little chumps! You're gonna need nostalgia goggles the size of dustbin lids." Yes, as we used to say in the Yorkshire ghetto, "Knack is cack!" 

I can't think of a single console in the last decade and a half that wouldn't have benefitted profoundly from delaying its launch for about a year. It's been like watching the tragic results of a birdman rally being held too close to the javelin competition. People tell me most consoles aim for being loss leaders these days. Well, I don't know about that but they certainly are dross leaders! Leaders in the field of dross!

...You know, I got paid money to write that!

Knack might as well have been called Particles: The Game. The titular main character is an upturned bucket on a body made up of large numbers of small objects and he gets bigger the more of them he collects. Sounds a wee bit Katamari Damacy so far, doesn't it? And I can't say I wouldn't be thrilled by the prospect of building a giant body out of cats and schoolchildren and using it to swat helicopters out of the air. Perhaps this was the original idea at some ancient mythic design stage but if it was, then vision seems to have had to try to meet practicality halfway, and practicality was determined not to move from the seat next to the biscuits.

So Knack can only grow from collecting specific objects, his size is largely dictated inorganically by progress through the level, and even then the framerate hyperventilates when there are too many loose physics objects, which is tragic really. The onus of the next-gen launch title is partly to sell the graphical capability of the console, standing atop it like Salome doing a little volumetric lighting Dance of the Seven Veils. This is more like Dance of the Seven Smallpox Blankets!

And presumably haunted by the same angry spectre of compromise, the level design is as bland as it gets. Corridor after corridor after empty room after empty room. You can design every single fucking level with one very long piece of string threaded through some ping-pong balls. I asked myself a short ways in, "Why do the words Crash Bandicoot keep crossing my mind?" 'Cos that's what it plays like! This is as far as we've come, people, right back around to PS1 era gameplay; moving along a line and hitting things. Except Crash Bandicoot had colour and life and secrets and challenges and character and humour and squealing pigs you can ride on after looking at the camera with a slightly suspect look on your face. And what does Knack have? Twelve different varieties of rock texture! You spend more time in caves than a hibernating bear.

Yes, you grow bigger and hit harder as the level goes on, but the rooms grow larger at the same rates and enemies are swapped out for tougher ones. So the gameplay doesn't change. You're either smashing little rock walls to get to a secret room or smashing entire buildings to get to the very same albeit scaled-up secret room. So someone in this world is manufacturing treasure chests ranging in size from breadbin to double-decker bus.

The plot is visited in brief cutscenes between corridor traversals and is the kind of plot that very loudly and busily goes fucking nowhere. It's set in a peaceful human society where technology is powered by ancient relics dug up from archeological sites, in one of which Knack was discovered. So you might think something would be made of where Knack came from and what his purpose is, but no, no-one cares. He's deployed as a weapon against an invading army of goblins and when he starts fighting them in a human city smashing buildings and making residents visibly shit themselves, you might think the plot will now be about Knack questioning his allegience to a species that hates and fears him and in which he can never truly belong, but no, everyone's just sort of cool with it. "Dah, those buildings were probably gonna fall down anyway, and the people inside were mostly dicks!"

It's like Knack spends the whole game showing off and breaking things in the vain hope that the plot will actually be about him at last. One wonders why they even gave him a voice; one further wonders why the voice they went for sounds like Barry White trying to chat up a jar of Nutella.

Only the human characters actually do plot relevant things, but all pretty half-heartedly. Knack's creator is a kindly scientist haunted by his lost love, although that gets really anticlimactically resolved basically around the time the game gets bored of him going on about it. There's a kid and some adventurer bloke who hang around contributing about as much as a suggestion box, and yet somehow both seem to have better claim to main character than fucking Knack does. And then there's a bloke with a goatee, shifty eyes and an army of robots who starts off ostensibly as an ally, but is so arse-wipingly obviously the villain that the game absentmindedly forgets to establish that he is. After they complete their mission together, he just goes "Bored now!" and kidnaps someone for literally no reason and to nobody's surprise.

Well, the reason he gives is that he wanted the heroes to come to his house and look at some stuff he's working on. Fucking ring them up! Or just ask them, they're right there! Offer them a lift on your getaway vehicle! It's like he only knows how to get things done in an evil way. All he wants is to work with the scientist to open an ancient ruin, something the scientist seems quite willing to do, but not after he's been helicoptered to a Dracula castle in a fucking cage! This guy needs an intervention!

It's especially weird how he keeps ordering Knack to be destroyed when Knack is obviously indestructible, in cutscenes anyway. In an example of "poodonarrative pissonance" (Still getting paid, remember?), in gameplay, Knack can take hits like a matchstick model of a polio victim. I asked myself, "I'm dying an awful lot. Is this game badly made or am I just this shit?" Perhaps a silly question. Every enemy can slice off your health bar like a fat bridesmaid left alone with the wedding cake, there's an awkward pause after the dodge move that leaves you wide open, and all the action's taking place in a tiny section of the screen surrounded by huge expanses of empty floor. So it is badly made and I'm not shit, hooray!

So yes, between uninspired and poorly balanced gameplay against the background of a scrappy plot in which boring characters fight over protagonist rights, Knack is cack. It's a fat sack of cack smoking crack. You might think smoking crack would give it some thwack, but the crack is whack and turns the lungs black. And I'd think of a better way to end this attack, but cut me some slack, I'm too much of a hack. Oh snack! I mean, snap!

Addenda:Edit

  • A clever or adroit way of doing something: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
  • I could teach a night course on how to insert swear words into other words
  • Perhaps Knack should try a different tack

ScreenshotsEdit

Zero Punctuation - 329 - Knack.mp4 snapshot 01.17 -2014.01.13 16.19.02-

Perhaps this was the original idea at some ancient mythic design stage.

Zero Punctuation - 329 - Knack.mp4 snapshot 02.34 -2014.01.13 16.19.59-

Someone in this world is manufacturing treasure chests ranging in size from breadbin to double-decker bus.

Zero Punctuation - 329 - Knack.mp4 snapshot 04.56 -2014.01.13 16.21.42-

Knack is cack. It's a fat sack of cack smoking crack.

Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart · The Surge · Injustice 2 · Vanquish · E3 2017 · Strafe
Q3 Get Even · Hollow Knight / Dead Cells · Fifth Console Generation · The End is Nigh, and Yonder: Cloud Catcher Chronicles · Pyre · Splatoon 2 · Hellblade · Agents of Mayhem · Sonic Mania · Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle · Destiny 2 · Metroid: Samus Returns
Q4 Knack 2 and SteamWorld Dig 2 · Cuphead · Hob and A Hat in Time · Middle-earth: Shadow of War · The Evil Within 2 · Super Mario Odyssey · Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus · Assassin's Creed Origins

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