Preview: Mark Cerny develops a Knack for PlayStation 4 platforming
Sony seems to have a thing for developing key platforming titles for its consoles. The original PlayStation had Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon, the PS2 did well with Jak and Daxter and Sly Cooper, and the PlayStation 3 benefitted from Ratchet & Clank, who flourished on the system, along with a variety of independent titles. So, what will the publisher be doing for its PlayStation 4? Quite a bit.
Mark Cerny and his team have put together Knack, a quality platforming game that takes old school style formula and combines it with new technology, giving it a fresh coat of paint that will make it feel like a new experience. Sony recently invited me to check out a playable build of the game during San Diego Comic-Con.
Knack, if you're unfamiliar with him, is a tiny character with a lot of significance. Put together in a lab, he's called upon to help stop a world invasion from a dreaded alien force. He may seem small at first, but over the course of the game, you can make him a big threat against enemies.
That's because Knack has absorption-like abilities, not unlike how the Katamari rolls up objects to get bigger. With each new enemy he defeats, he's able to gain new pieces to add to his frame. The larger he gets, the more powerful he becomes, and he can dish out some severe justice against enemies if he feels like it.
However, that doesn't necessarily mean he stays big. There are some areas that require Knack's smaller frame to get through, whether he's accessing an out-of-reach switch or trying to get somewhere else. With a press of the triangle button, he can drop everything, get to the switch, and then get back to building upon a large frame again. It's quite simple to get into, but definitely innovative in terms of platforming gameplay.
The controls are quite easy to handle, with attack techniques and being able to drop and rebuild your frame. There's hardly anything top-of-the-line here when it comes to new gameplay types, but those of you familiar with third-person action/adventures won't mind what this game has to offer.
Where Knack truly makes a difference is in its visuals. It's wondrous watching this little guy come together into something big, as his particles swirl around him like a finely made skeleton. Watching his limbs go to work, fall apart and then re-grow is simply fantastic. The level design is good as well, even though some parts follow the basic design of "get from point A to point B." No matter, it looks great.
I didn't get to hear too much audio with the demo, since the action on the show floor was so loud that I could barely make it out. However, if I know Cerny and his team, they'll fill the game with quality voice work and music to go along with the lively visuals. Fans have nothing to worry about.
Best of all, there's an interesting social feature with Knack, one where you can swap parts back and forth with people on your friends list. Unfortunately, we didn't get to see this in action, but it'd be interesting to see what kind of build you can put together with their contributions.
At first glance, Knack may seem like "kids' stuff," but that's not a bad thing. There's going to be a market for platformers like this, and while young kids may enjoy it the most, older fans of platformers will want to give it a shot as well.
Check out Knack when it launches this fall alongside the PlayStation 4.