Preview: Lots of little pieces, but only one Knack

June 14, 2013


Filling the family-friendly action-adventure role in the PlayStation 4’s launch is Knack, from Mark Cerny and Sony’s first-party Japan Studio. It shows off the tech of the new hardware in ways that may not be immediately apparent to those who aren’t particularly technical, but that’s not the important part: it’s like an interactive CG-animated movie! That’s the pitch, anyway.

What it is: Knack is a combat-based relatively-linear action-platformer starring a little thing that gets larger with increased pieces and electricity to hold it all together. In the portion we played, it seemed to be fairly scripted from moment to moment, and focus on finding items to boost your special meter for some truly devastating attacks.

It’s also filled with small juggle-prone puzzle elements. You can temporarily become small and stealthy, sneaking through lasers and fitting into ducts. This isn’t particularly complex (at least so far), but the challenge is in remembering to switch back at the first opportunity to take on enemies.

Why we’re excited: The game does look nice, if not striking in its complexity. A lot of the processing goes to rendering Knack’s individual parts, but ultimately that leads to a focus on level design. Also, it does really impress with its level of movie-style facial expression and charm.

A feature that could be interesting, but we didn’t get to explore it much: when you open a chest, the item’s randomly generated from a pool of possibilities based on rarity. When that happens, you can see what items friends got from that same chest and, if you prefer one of theirs, replace yours with it. These items allow for more combos, unlock special Knacks with elemental affinities and accomplish other as-yet-unspecified tasks.

What we’re wondering: The genre tends to devolve into repetitive button-mashing, and right now the big-and-small elements really aren’t showing themselves well. Will this get more interesting as the game progresses? Also, the game uses a series of fixed cameras with no direct control, so there’s some awkwardness when transitioning from one area to the other and getting stuck in a brief disorientation loop. Will this get polished up by launch?

Knack is presumably headed for a launch release for the PS4 this November.