Amid the onslaught of new technology, filled with fancy graphics, enhanced AI and more realistic interactive experiences, one may find some old-fashioned solace in Knack. Officially, the first PlayStation 4 game to be unveiled during the February PlayStation Meeting was created by Mark Cerny, who also happens to be the lead system architect for Sony’s new console. With the help of the internal Japan studio, he has created a game that reminds us of a time when the primary intent of all video games was essentially the same: Fun.
Of course, that’s a relative term and one could argue that he or she will have more fun playing Killzone: Shadow Fall. So perhaps the whimsical charm, family-friendly style, and accessibility of Knack is more of an homage to innocence than the simplified nature of the word “fun.” Featuring easy controls, a cohesive and interesting narrative, and a diverse set of challenges, the game isn’t specifically designed for any one group. No, it’s for everyone, from the veteran die-hard gamer to anyone who’s curious and picks up a controller for the first time.
It’s also important to remember that Cerny helped deliver Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon, two of the most beloved characters in video game history. The franchises in question consisted of extremely well-conceived action platforming titles, so you have to assume he knows what he’s doing. The main character is fittingly called “Knack” and he’s out to defend humans from the rampaging Goblins. Knack himself is difficult to describe; he’s an animated figure that appears to be a blend of various machine parts and other gadgets. Highly creative, at the very least.
What’s cool about him is that he actually grows and shrinks based on the Relics he locates. These Relics can appear when an enemy is destroyed, or they can be found hiding in the environment (part of which is destructible). The bigger Knack gets, the stronger and more powerful he becomes, and the more damage he can inflict and withstand. He’ll also be able to face tougher foes, which get increasingly difficult as a stage progresses. Goblin tanks and helicopters await if Knack grows big enough! Relics also serve another important purpose- keeping Knack’s health up.
You will also find other collectibles that fill other energy meters, which will allow the unique main character to unleash damaging special moves on large groups of opponents. Obviously, these are best saved for when Knack is greatly outnumbered, so use such attacks wisely. The controls should be plenty accessible and it’ll simply be a matter of exploring the colorful landscape, finding Relics and other special items, and taking out as many Goblins as you can. There will be some strategy in how you approach the battles, though, so it’s not all about jamming on buttons.
The only problem that Knack may encounter is that it doesn’t really have a big-time “wow” factor. In fact, based on the footage and media we’ve seen this far, it doesn’t seem to be utilizing much of the PS4’s power. Therefore, it may be scorned when compared to the likes of Shadow Fall and DriveClub. Still, maybe that’s okay because Knack is almost like a reprieve; a breath of fresh air or rather, a breath of air from a bygone era. For plenty of fun that will make you smile, for a title that absolutely anyone could enjoy, Knack definitely has the goods.
7/22/2013 Ben Dutka