It’s unclear what Sony’s intention is with Knack, its PS4-exclusive launch title under development at Studio Japan. Does Sony want a new mascot – a la Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon, Ratchet & Clank, or Jak & Daxter – or something that’s simply accessible for all ages? The latter point seems to be important to Mark Cerny, the creator of Knack and the man who helped bring those four aforementioned franchises to life. Indeed, Knack was inspired by a seeming lack of PlayStation 4 games aimed at children and families.
In short, Knack represents a sort of mash-up, a hodgepodge of ideas designed to appeal to gamers with different sensibilities. Older, core gamers nostalgic for Cerny’s previous platformer projects will be right at home with Knack, but its accessibility means that just about anyone can play it. As Cerny noted during a behind-closed-doors demonstration of Knack at Gamescom 2013, there’s something here “for sons or daughters or spouses.” Unlike, say, Killzone: Shadow Fall, there’s no reason for anyone to be intimidated or scared-off by a perceived inability to successfully play the game.
The character Knack – the game’s namesake – is, as Cerny describes, a “rampaging monster” who can range anywhere from three feet tall to 30 feet tall or bigger. His size is entirely contingent on items called Relics, which he will be able to discover by exploring various environments while killing the diverse sets of enemy forces he encounters. Knack’s voice is decidedly strange – he looks cartoonish, but sounds like a burly, grown man – but there’s something endearing about him. Equally endearing is Lucas, Knack’s human companion. Aesthetically, the game doesn't appear to push the PS4 to its limits, but its certainly pretty.
…Knack represents a sort of mash-up, a hodgepodge of ideas…
As we discussed when we first played Knack back at E3, being deceived by its almost Pixar-like charm is akin to judging a book by its cover. It was clear watching a demonstration of some new, never-before-seen areas of the game that Knack can be grueling and challenging, especially because you can adjust the difficulty settings to make it harder if its default difficulty isn’t up to snuff with your skill level. It was especially humorous to hear Cerny ruthlessly (but humorously) make fun of the Sony employee demonstrating the game as he spoke, pointing out an area she always dies in (and she did), and noting that she had to kick the difficulty down a notch to keep the demo moving smoothly.
One of the features of Knack that was stressed when I played it at E3 were its many hidden areas. Even if Knack is presented linearly, there are a lot of secret paths behind destructible objects begging to be explored. In most of these locales, treasure chests can be found, and within those chests, you’ll discover parts for some of the game’s many gadgets and weapons. What I really dig about this setup is that the parts you discover are totally randomized, and if you’re connected to PlayStation Network while playing, you can actually see the parts your friends discovered in the same room. If you want one of the parts they found instead of the one you uncovered, you can swap, making for a cool, completely non-invasive social feature.
…being deceived by its almost Pixar-like charm is akin to judging a book by its cover.
In our demonstration, parts were found to create a gadget called the Harvester. This allows for Knack to collect Sunstones – glimmering yellow items found all over the place – from fallen enemies. Typically, these can only be collected by destroying objects in the environment, like rocks or trees. Sunstones are, in turn, used to fill up one of three gauges that allow Knack to unleash his super moves, such as a devastating attack called the Shockwave. When combined with Knack’s more pedestrian moveset – jumps and double-jumps, rolling attacks, and punches – Knack becomes a true force to be reckoned with, especially as he grows exponentially in size, giving the player more power and the game a different feel.
Something Cerny focused a great deal on in this particular demo was what he termed “asymmetric” drop-in, drop-out co-op. Knack’s co-op is local only – so there’s no playing with your buddies online – but the idea here isn’t necessarily to have an equal experience with one of your friends. Rather, Knack’s co-op is designed to accommodate kids, or as Cerny put it, “parents playing with children.” By allowing a second player, a metallic version of Knack termed “Robo Knack,” less-skilled players can get in on the action without stymying progression or otherwise slowing the game down. Progression is always dictated by the main character, and Robo Knack contributes his own discovered Relics and Sunstones to Knack to help him survive. It’s a nice little touch in an otherwise single player-centric game.
Earlier this summer, Cerny’s commented that Knack is about 10 hours long, and he reiterated that number during this demo. He did, however, say that it could be closer to 12 hours with cutscenes taken into account. Knack is due out alongside PlayStation 4 in North America on November 15th and in other parts of the world on November 29th. Keep it tuned to IGN closer to release for a full review.
Source : ign[dot]com