First hands-on with PS4's first adventure game
Knack came out of nowhere. This PS4 title is quite a bit different from what you'd expect for a launch title from Sony, but this makes it a standout in the large pile of upcoming next-gen games. As it stands right now, there's nothing else like Knack.
In Knack, humans and goblins used to live together in one world, in perfect harmony. But something went wrong somewhere, and now goblins have weapons and are attacking humans. One man has the answer to the situation: a little creature named Knack.
Knack is small, but he can bust things up to absorb their parts, called relics. This makes him grow. Mix the magnetic nuts and bolts attraction you'd find in Ratchet and Clank with the increased size and access of Katamari Damacy and you'd be on the right track.
These collected relics automatically attach and become part of Knack's body, making him not only bigger, but more complex. Each addition adds to his lifebar and abilities, but on the other hand, damage taken knocks off both available life and pieces of relics. He's most vulnerable when only a few pieces of relics are covering his core, so it's in the player's best interest to go looking for something else to bust up and collect.
This adventure title has Knack running around bashing both objects and enemies and collecting relics to grow in both size and power. Starting out, Knack is knee high at best. But it wasn't long before I had him towering over buildings in a city, able to knock them down with a single punch. He started with a low level of available health, but at his top size, which was about ten times his starting size, Knack was easily able to take down aircraft.
Movement and combat in Knack are simple as it is designed to be accessible, meaning that a kid could pick this title up and enjoy it. Knack can jump and punch, as you'd expect from an adventure game. And while it lacks a blocking button, using the right analog stick allows dash-type dodging. Tapping circle opens up the ability to pick from a few special moves, all of which are pretty flashy graphically. One had Knack sending all of his relic pieces out from his body into enemies to destroy them, for example. The PS4 had no problem sending countless little fragments out and about; it looks really slick.
It didn't just look nice, though. I'm pleased to say that Knack's control felt tight and focused. Both platforming and combat came through beautifully, showing the polish put in benefitted both the visuals and the gameplay. It may be a game built for accessibility and mass appeal, but any well-versed gamer will appreciate how nicely it controls.
Knack's world won't wow you as design goes, though it does look nice with the PS4 supplying fancy particle effects and other touches. I ran around in a city as both small and big Knack, letting me appreciate how the game gradually toys with scale to make you feel more powerful as you grow. I went from climbing up objects to access roof tops to towering over them.
Knack showed off some morphing skills in a later segment that had him sneaking around inside a building. By pressing Triangle I was able to change forms, turning into stealth Knack. This let me walk through laser fields unharmed, and had it so that I was small enough to walk through air ducts. Some relics give Knack new powers. An ice cave stage had Knack sliding around on surfaces. He was able to break up ice formations to draw them in like he would relics.
If you're looking for a graphical showcase title for PS4, Knack might not be your first choice. That said, it does look very nice with its sharp textures and clean looks. There are tons of little bits moving about the screen at any time, and it's clear that the PS4's graphical muscle is flexing here under to hood to make this so. Between these objects and the particle effects, there's still plenty to be impressed with. Knack is colorful and detailed, giving it an animated movie kind of look.
Overall, while you might not expect Knack to knock your socks off, you should expect a nicely crafted adventure with excellent controls and plenty of charm.