Looking at gaming’s release schedule, you may notice one genre in particular doesn’t seem to have anything on the horizon – the action platformer. Has the flop of Knack on the PS4 put developers off making new ones? Until someone says otherwise, it would seem that the best way to get our fix is to look backwards.
Fortunately, I’ve been saved a visit to my local preowned store and plugging my PS2 into a modern TV (scart lead consoles on HD TV’s look horrendous) thanks to PS2 title, Legend of Kay being released in digital form on PS3. This isn’t an HD remake, but to be honest, time has been kind to the game and it still looks good today. Widescreen and 60Hz support helps too.
The game sees you star as Kay, a young cat keen to become a great warrior. His village has been long occupied by the invading forces of rats and gorillas and he’s decided the rebellion starts with him. There’s a bit of an old Kung Fu movie vibe to the story, but as the animal characters may have already given away, it’s watered down for the younger players.
Gameplay is a mix of platforming and swordplay. Kay’s fresh out of training, and picks up a few skills on his travels. Be warned though, there’s no guide in the pause menu. So pay attention during those tutorials, because despite the child-friendly visuals, this game will kick your ass given half a chance.
Kay is often attacked from all sides and must use his sword to break down the defences of enemies who are master blockers from the off. You’ll need to use skills like a charged aerial attack performed by rolling, jumping and striking to break through a block. Once enemies are knocked down, you may still need to carry on with these flamboyant moves to break through armour.
Most of the time it takes a while to initiate a successful combo. Once you do though, you can leap towards different targets with a tap of triangle before whaling in with the square button again. Once Kay has a good chain going, his hits become stronger and are more likely to break defences.
You’ll need some seriously nimble fingers to pull of some moves, holding circle and rolling your thumb over to press triangle is hard enough. But that’s nothing when you’re asked to visit the other side of the face buttons by pressing square while holding the circle button. Effectively, you have to adapt the Tekken claw position by having two fingers poised over the face buttons. This really isn’t a good fit for a 3D action game. If the rolling feature (circle button) had been assigned to a shoulder button, life would have been much easier.
Further adding to the difficulty is the old concept of limited lives. Run out and it’s back to the start of the stage for you. Trust me, it’s quite an adjustment considering the handholding most modern titles offer. Hell, compared to the Lego games, it might make you cry a little.
The platforming side of the game is reasonably solid once you get used to wrangling the camera around corners and adapt to the slightly twitchy mid-air movement. The game’s full of classic tropes like small moving platforms, swinging ropes, dodging boulders and so on. Familiar territory then, but also a pleasing challenge to players who’ve had nothing to play for a while. Plus, knowing Knack is pants means we won’t be buying it until it drops below at least a tenner. Don’t judge us, there’s nothing else to play.
Some parts of the game will test your patience to the limit, such as the poor script and voice acting, constantly defensive enemies, or the slow recovery times after being knocked down. The biggest pain though is the absolute ballbuster that is the boar-riding sections where you must point a rampaging swine though an insta-fail course populated with awkward turns and awful collision detection. One in the first few hours almost made me throw in the towel.
The challenge offered by the combat is a reasonable one though and genre fans will enjoy being tasked with something a little sterner than theLego games for a change. Exploration often wields handy results like stronger weapons, so it’s worth taking your time to empty each stage. While Legend of Kay is unlikely to trouble old favourites like Ratchet & Clank, Beyond Good & Evil or Kya: Dark Lineage, it’s still worth a shot if you’re up for a test of your skills.
- Holds up well graphically
- Hours of gaming for £3.99
- Enemies are no pushover…
- …Stop blocking you s***t!
- Some combat controls are awkward
- Story and characters are dull as mud
The Short Version: Fans of action platformers may want to give this a look if they missed it on the PS2. The graphics have held up well and there’s a stern challenge on offer, although the awkward claw-stance required on the controller during combat may be a hard sell. Very reasonably priced at £3.99 though.
Developer: Neon Studios
Publisher: Nordic Games