Knack preview: First play of Playstation 4 exclusive title
When Sony announced the Playstation 4 earlier this year it also unveiled Knack, a 3D platform game that, in truth, we weren't convinced looked all too next-generation. But ever the avid gamers we thought we'd give it a chance to see how the gameplay faired at this year's E3 gaming expo is Los Angeles, California.
How first impressions can be given the about-turn. Knack is a title full of far more promise than we'd initially anticipated. Sony lacks a firm Mario-like character, so we see the genre that the company is trying to dig into. Knack might not quite have the complexity - at least from what we've seen so far - of the platform-leaping, pipe-surfing Super Mario 3D on the Wii U, but it still offers plenty of thrills.
And so to the premise: Knack is a small creature - that's the best description we've got - who has been called upon to win the war against a goblin army. It's one of those fantasy stories, a fusion of Sony Japan and well-known designer Mark Cerny (Crash Bandicoot, Spyro and more), which combined make up a story of Disney proportions. Except there're no princesses to rescue, just lots of goblins to bop to death.
Knack's bright and colourful graphics are attractive, but do look as though they could have been rendered on the PS3. But that's not really a bother - as it's all about the gameplay.
There are multiple strains to how the game works. Initially small, Knack can power-up into larger forms that can be toggled between in order to solve simple puzzle. For example ditching his larger size to walk under low-slung laser beams or walk through an air vent as small Knack, before sizing back up to the more powerful larger version. There's also a super-large size which takes on the much larger enemies - by lobbing cars at them no less.
In any of the larger forms it's possible to jump and spin attack or simply punch enemies. They're not all that tough, taking just a hit or two to dispatch. Throughout the different size forms this remains much the same - it's the simplified method of attack that will probably get repetitive quickly. It doesn't take long to get the, er, knack of Knack. There's not the complexity of something like the Batman: Arkham franchise, but then Knack's 'toony, more child-friendly concept isn't trying to be anything like that.
Throughout different worlds there are smashable objects which generate power-ups, while in ice-laden caves icicles add a frosty exterior shield that accumulates the more you smash. Get hit by your foes and this exterior defence dwindles, which shows up as physical damage. Too many strikes and you'll die - well, we presume so, but the game sections we played through were so easy that we didn't falter throughout, only getting hit a few times in total.
Larger mechanised enemies, quirky camera angles and an interactive environment - go on, go pick up a car from the kerb and throw it into buildings or enemies - add to the fun. This is the kind of family friendly title which makes sense to launch with a Christmas release console. We don't expect it to be too taxing from what we've seen, but there's fun to be had bouncing through the various worlds - and even if they don't shout "next-gen", Knack still has a polished look and feel.