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Knowledge is Power

Platform(s): PlayStation 4
Genre: Casual
Publisher: SCEA
Release Date: Oct. 24, 2017


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PS4 Review - 'Knowledge is Power'

by Cody Medellin on Dec. 16, 2017 @ 1:45 a.m. PST

In Knowledge is Power, grab your smart device, choose a character, and enter the Pyramid of Knowledge, where you and up to five friends answer a variety of questions in a race to the top.

Buy Knowledge is Power

Sony's PlayLink initiative is an interesting one. Following in the footsteps on the Jackbox Party Pack series, Use Your Words, and the latter Telltale games, every game under the PlayLink branding eschews normal controllers and uses phones and tablets as the main controller. Considering the ubiquity of phones and tablets nowadays, this seems to be the best move to get a wide audience. The variety of games under the PlayLink brand so far is wide enough that there's something of interest for everyone. One of the more traditional offerings is Knowledge is Power, a game that is easy to pick up but isn't as exciting when compared to the competition.

Unlike almost all of the other games under the PlayLink banner so far, Knowledge is Power has the most familiar theme of all: a trivia game show. Up to six players compete against one another, and your goal is to correctly answer as many questions as possible, amassing points along the way. Points aren't given for answering the question correctly but for speed, so being smart and quick is the best formula for success. Each game consists of 12 rounds, and most rounds consist of just one trivia question and up to four answers to choose from. There are a few rounds where you'll have to match items or sort names under one of two categories, and the final round takes the basic multiple-choice question format and changes it into a pyramid climb. Quick and correct answers allow the player to move more steps up the pyramid.

The main difference is in the abilities you can unleash in between rounds. From round two onward, you can target an opponent and use one of three abilities to make it more difficult for them to answer a question. Freeze encases all of the answers in blocks of ice that need to be broken before the answer can be selected. Gloop does the same thing, but you'll wipe away slime instead. Small Creatures can be used to eat away at some of the letters of the answers, and the Bombs ability drops explosives that, when touched, fill the screen with a white flash for a few seconds. While you'll start off using one power-up at a time, your status in the game later on might grant you the ability to use pre-made power-up combinations to further trip up your opponent.

The game always starts with everyone choosing a pre-made character, including a Wild West bandita, a guy in a hot dog suit, a mountain climber, and an anthropomorphic jelly scientist. Once the character is chosen, you can use your device's camera to snap a picture of yourself with that character's overlay. Get the astronaut, for example, and you can snap a picture of yourself with an astronaut helmet.

From there, after an introduction of the characters by the host, everyone is taken to a room with four doors that represent different categories. The category with the most votes gets chosen as the topic for the question or, in the case of a tie, by random chance. Once per game, a player can unleash their power-up to override everyone else's decision and have the game go with the category they want instead. From there, you're shown just what power-ups people choose to use against one another, answer the question, see the results, and start the process anew on the next round.

One of the more interesting things you'll notice in Knowledge is Power is how the topics and questions chain together. For example, you can start with movies and get asked a question about an adventure film. From there, you can choose between things like ancient artifacts or specific world history or geography that was somehow related to the previous question. The ties aren't always obvious, and there are times when they forgo the connections and start the process anew, but the effort is appreciated when so many other trivia games opt for a random selection of categories.

The game is inherently fun, and while the aesthetics may make you think that this is a trivia game for kids, the questions are certainly more for adults because younger people may have no idea about the subject. This is especially true of the pop culture-related questions, like which actor is in both "Batman Returns" and "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia." There's also a very good number of questions for various topics, and while it's unknown whether there will be DLC packs to expand the question set, you can feel confident that it will take a while before those questions are repeated. Also, it's quaint that the grand prize is a scroll-shaped diploma that doles out a random fact, almost as if the real goal of amassing so much trivial knowledge is to cram more of it into your head.

That said, there are two things that bring down the game. The first is the overall pacing, which is rather slow for a party title. About half of your time is spent watching people get doused with power-ups, walking to doors, or some transitional animation before interacting with the actual trivia segment. Other similar games like You Don't Know Jack were guilty of this as well, but that game filled its downtime with witty comments from the host, and the flow from one question to another was much faster. Here, the host plays it too safe, and when combined with the slower pace of the overall title, it feels less enjoyable.

The second thing isn't specific to Knowledge is Power but to the PlayLink series as a whole: the use of a separate app to play. To be fair, the game has you doing lots of things with your phone, so it might be too difficult to adopt a web browser-based interface to more closely resemble similar titles from the competition. Then again, having a separate app for each PlayLink game isn't ideal. It would be better to grow the brand as one major app with different downloadable modules for each game.

The graphical presentation is very cool. The backdrops can be a little abstract, but it works well with the characters, whose animations are reminiscent of the stop-motion kind done by modern houses like Laika. It looks gorgeous, and while those graphical flourishes aren't necessary for a quiz game, their inclusion is still appreciated. On the audio side, the host sounds pleasant but otherwise not too interesting. The use of a different female voice to read the questions is nice, and the music is inoffensive but otherwise forgettable.

In the end, Knowledge is Power isn't a bad trivia game. The questions are good, and it's an annoyance that players can't turn off the power-ups, but they're nice to have if someone is dominating the game. However, the slower pace prevents Knowledge is Power from becoming a big party game, something that other trivia games can handle with ease. While it may not be the go-to video game for big gatherings, it's a nice title to have around in between sessions of the bigger party games.

Score: 7.0/10

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