Knack has a special place in my heart because it was the first time that I held a PlayStation 4 controller. After waiting in line for my turn with the demo, I was finally handed the DualShock 4. I took my time to familiarize myself with this redesign before starting to play – it felt wonderful and I could easily go on and on about how awesome it was, but this preview is about Knack, so just read Anthony’s preview of the DualShock 4 here.
One of the greatest things about Knack is its accessibility. There is a specific market for games like Killzone and even inFamous, but Knack is a title launching with the PS4 that will be great for the mature gamers as well as the little ones. In a style similar to titles like Crash Bandicoot or Ratchet and Clank there seems to be enough humor and exposition to keep the adult gamers interested while remaining fun and cartoony for kids that shouldn’t be dropping expletives and taking out Helghast.
At first glance, Knack does not seem to do anything special with the tech on the PS4. Upon closer inspection, however, you will find a few hidden treasures. The deceptively cartoony visuals are stunning and look like a playable Pixar movie – it reminded me of the first time I saw a cartoon on a Blu-ray. While not photorealistic, Knack still does some amazing things with its visuals. The social features are also present: each time I picked up a new upgrade it would give a status update on friends and what they had collected. It was hard to assess this feature out of context and without actual PSN friends to compare it to, but it seems like it could bring some fun challenge, discussion, and visibility to what your friends are doing in their game.
Where Knack really flaunted the PS4 tech was in the real time particle effects; Knack himself (the main character) is made up of a variety of particles from the world around him. One part of the preview had Knack adding icicles and other chunks of ice to his body while traversing a snowy cavern. At the press of a button, Knack can drop all of his particles to enter a low health stealth mode, with the particles dropping into the game world and reacting with real physics. When you exit stealth mode, the particles zoom back to your location to rebuild your character. Knack’s appearance is not simply a character skin, but separate particles that can react individually in real time and with accurate physics.
Technical stuff aside, how does Knack play? The fixed camera levels brought me back to my days playing Crash Bandicoot: Warped on my PS1, and that is a franchise a lot of people are comparing it to. But there are of course some differences, in the final segment of the preview, Knack was huge and could pick up cars to use as weapons against his enemies. The gameplay is not massively groundbreaking and I occasionally found frustration with the fixed camera and generic “stiff” feeling platformer gameplay, but this was a preview and the play may get smoothed out before release.
Overall this preview of Knack gets a seal of approval from me and will be one of the titles that I’ll pick up at launch with my PS4. Knack takes a huge step into the next gen while keeping ties to nostalgia and generations past. The openness and accessibility of this title will ensure that the game will appeal to a ton of early PS4 adopters, and that certainly won’t be a bad thing.