Beat-em-ups, those fast paced rumble fests where characters march right and punch stuff, live and die on their feel. If their punches fail to elicit a feeling of actually connecting and causing harm, the game collapses in on itself. Many fail.
Knack may have some of the best “feel” I’ve ever encountered.
Knack is a creature of many parts, made from relics which magnetically connect to one another. It allows him to stretch and bend in ways human characters cannot. These adjustments add power to Knack’s straight and roundhouse punches. For a game with kid-centric atmosphere, the lead character’s fighting prowess is vicious.
There are additional animated elements involved. Battling robot, goblin, and human kind, these enemies sell the punches. They react by jerking their heads back, shattering armor, and effectively falling to pieces. Collision follows the punch path perfectly, meaning even follow through is honored. The total effect is enormously satisfying in a way that salvages Knack from a realm of sub-par touches.
This is a title from Japan Studio which utilizes none of the PS4 main features. The touch pad goes unused, the controller light remains static, and triggers prove pointless. It is a decidedly simple, retro experience at a time when most seek out splashes of generous technological flourishes. Knack is often stunning, but that’s it. There is a lack of complexity and progress which seems to be off-putting critics and players alike.
But, that feel is something else. The thrill of knowing there is more to come is enough to draw interest even as terribly imbalanced difficulty can sink pacing and level design is so direct as to play its own hand. I’ll deal with it all because over that ridge or gap sits a goblin waiting to be punched and it will never get old.