|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Angelo M. D’Argenio
Though this year’s E3 was the year we were introduced to the next-generation consoles, there weren’t very many next-generation games available to play. One of the few PS4 titles on display was Knack, a new first-party title from Sony. The game was first revealed at the original PS4 reveal, and it appears as if Sony is trying to push the game as a sort of mascot title, and for good reason. Sony describes the game as a combination of Crash Bandicoot and Katamari Damacy, and they aren’t wrong. Knack has all the charm of the Spyros and Sly Coopers of times past. Unfortunately, it doesn’t feel like it is really stretching the PS4 to the limits of its capability.
You play the titular Knack, a brand-new living weapon built to save the human race from goblin hordes. Knack is essentially a living colony of tiny machines, or relics, as the game calls them. While normally he looks like a tiny goblin himself, he can incorporate relics he finds to gain new abilities and grow in size.
This is the core mechanic of the game, and it carries the gameplay quite well. Knack can find new relics after defeating enemies, lying around the battlefield, or hidden in treasure chests. As his total number of relics increases his power and health increases, allowing him to stomp through enemies easily. For example, at the beginning of the game, you will likely be battling goblin foot soldiers. However, as you grow bigger, you will simply walk over the foot soldiers, instead deciding to take on goblin tanks and helicopters as worthy foes. Eventually, you will be as tall as a building, duking it out with the biggest the goblin army has to offer, playing out your battles in spectacular Godzilla-movie-monster style.
Of course, size isn’t everything. A huge Knack can’t traverse certain parts of a level. So at times, you will actually have to shed the relics that you have gathered in order to fit through tight spaces. In fact, you can shed literally every relic on your body to enter a low health, low power stealth mode, which allows you to become transparent and sneak around enemy bases unseen. You can then call all of your relics back in one grandiose moment of wreckage, ready to start the slaughter once more.
Knack is also affected by the kind of relics and objects he absorbs. For example, in a snow world, you can absorb icicles around you, building up a spikey carapace to protect you. You can also absorb metal and stone and all sorts of other materials that will change the way that Knack operates as well. The demo didn’t have a whole lot of these materials to show, but we were told that the final game would have puzzle elements tied to the types of matter that you absorbed into your body.
Perhaps the one thing that actually does utilize the PS4’s impressive power is Knack’s body itself. Each of the particles that make up his strange, hive-mind swarm is modeled separately. If something smacks into them, these particles can fall off, and they each obey the game’s laws of physics pretty accurately. You can see this the best when you decide to enter stealth mode and all of Knack’s parts fall to the ground.
However, outside of the ability to handle so many objects at once, Knack really doesn’t feel very next generation. The combat in the game is really just plain old button mashing. Find a thing, mash buttons at it ‘til it dies, and don’t get hit. Nothing is all that threatening, especially as Knack starts to grow, and the combat itself starts to get repetitive really quick.
The game also cloaks itself in the trappings of early PlayStation-era games, specifically games with fixed camera angles. To be fair, the fixed camera angles weren’t that bad. I never felt as if I was fighting against the camera, and the angles never seemed to hide enemies or treasures from my sight. Still, this is the PS4 we are talking about. Not having a movable camera just feels too old school for its own good and will be looked at as a bizarre omission by some.
The other old gameplay element that Knack loves to fool around with is platforming, which… is kind of a hit-or-miss affair. The jumping controls in Knack are stiff but not horrible. The problem is that platforming doesn’t really add anything to the game. It’s not like Prince of Persia or Mario where platforming is the focus. It really just acts as a stopgap for the next action segment.
However, Knack is certainly enjoyable because of how accessible it is. It doesn’t take much to pick up the controller and start slamming away at enemies, getting bigger all the time. It’s essentially a big spectacle to show off what the PS4 is graphically capable of, which is cool, but not mind blowing. It’s more glitter than substance, which is just fine for a mascot game. It will likely be a fine addition to anyone’s library, but won’t be the killer app that sells the system.
Angelo M. D’Argenio
Date: July 11, 2013