It’s nice to see Sony approaching the launch of the PlayStation 4 with titles that don’t just fall under the usual shooter category. One may say that it is imprudent to purely focus on just one genre. So the announcement of Knack as a launch title is most welcome, especially as it seems like a title a wider range of gamers will enjoy.
The premise behind Knack actually seems relatively simple. It consists of controlling one character, Knack, and getting through a series of obstacles to the end of a section. There are different obstacles to get through, such as defeating a selection of enemies that stand in the way. The twist is that Knack is able to transform into different characters.
If anything, this is reminiscent of video-games that are released for comic book-to- film adaptations. The objectives are similar at the very least, given the fact that the only way to progress is by defeating enemies.
This is made clear from the start where the player controls a giant troll like character. This towering creature lays waste to anything in its path. The troll-like creature literally crushes smaller enemies as if swatting a pesky fly. Such power means that enemies found feel more like slight annoyances rather than worthy opponents.
At one point in my demonstration it became possible to throw items at enemies the brute’s fists could not reach. This provided a more enjoyable means of playing Knack, especially as it was possible to do so with ease thanks to the excellent controls.
In fact, the control scheme is one area that stands out the most about the game. It makes the process of moving very easy, perhaps down to the excellent PlayStation 4 Dualshock 4 controller’s analogue sticks. Both are so well placed that the process of using the left stick to move the character is without flaw.
The whole section of the demo took place in a large portion of a seaside town. It’s clear the developers have made good use of the hardware. The environments are rich with detail and make for a pleasant backdrop to all the fighting. The only downside is not being able to fully explore these environments. Unfortunately, it felt like the character was confined to follow a certain path.
A second visit to the town in the last portion of the demo demonstrated a better use of such environments. For instance, the character could now jump onto a rooftop. There was certainly a lot more freedom, making for a much better gaming experience.
One section of the demo made it possible to transform Knack into a giant character and another one of smaller size. This dwarf sized character had the interesting ability of becoming transparent at will. This ability was then used to pass through various lasers, enabling the player to turn them off.
Interestingly, the dwarf-like character was extremely weak to attacks. So it was necessary to swap between both at various points. This provided for a better challenge and there were even a few times where it felt like the player was solving a simple puzzle.
It’s natural to wonder why it’s necessary to switch off lasers when it’s possible to switch between characters at any moment. The reason is a pair of humans that follow both characters. It was clear the humans were relying on Knack in order to advance further into the building.
The final section took place in a cavern filled with ice. Here it was possible to learn more about the games’ health system. There is a traditional health bar at the top. However, characters are made up of particles that will slowly decrease as Knack takes damage. It is possible, however, to earn back health particles by making use of the elements around. For instance, breaking some of the ice made it possible to regain health.
Although it didn’t feel overly challenging, Knack was still enjoyable to play through. I have to say, Knack doesn’t truly feel like a next generation offering, but it is early days, and the demo seemed keen on offering a mere glimpse of what is to come – rather than a proper feel of what the development team has set out to accomplish.
If anything, it feels like a title that a younger audience will enjoy and that’s important given the hardware’s expected release before the Christmas rush. It is reminiscent of Xbox 360 launch title, Kameo, yet it also felt quite unique and set out to accomplish much greatness with the aid of the all new exciting PlayStation 4 hardware.
Only time will tell if this offers a real next-gen experience, but there is certainly hope for Knack. I definitely enjoyed my short time with it.