Why Knack is More Next-Gen Than You Might Think

Do yourself a favor and take a closer look at this PS4 launch title.

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Knack didn't exactly blow me away when it was introduced earlier this year. Here was one of the very first PlayStation 4 titles to be shown to the public, and rather than display the sort of immediate technical wizardry you might expect from a next-gen game, it just sort of looked like a modern action-platformer. But fast forward to today and I've finally had the chance to spend some quality time with Knack here at Tokyo Game Show. If there's one thought I came away with, it's this: you've got to see this game in person to really appreciate it.

Knack is a game made up of subtle details, and so many of those details are lost when you're streaming footage of it online. Play the game on a nice, big HDTV and it's a different experience altogether. It no longer resembles an upscaled version of a PS3-era platformer, but a rather impressive-looking piece of next-gen software in its own right.

It all starts with the titular main character. Knack is a hero made up of thousands of free-floating bits and bobs called relics. He grows bigger and stronger by collecting relics, and loses them when he takes a hit from enemies. But no matter whether you're seeing those lost relics going scattering across the floor like someone just dumped a potato sack full of LEGO pieces or staring at the individually lit and textured pieces of his frame during a cut scene, it's amazing just how much microscopic detail there is in the character design.

And then there's the world around Knack. For the most part, these are not the sort of massive, sprawling levels you might see as a selling point in other next-gen games. Rather, they feel like the sort of modestly sized platforming playgrounds you'd see out of a Ratchet and Clank game from six years ago. But like Knack himself, there's a level of detail here you can only fully appreciate when you get to see the game running live and in person.

I had the chance to see one of the game's bigger levels, an outdoor canyon full of lush foliage that looked like some strange intersection between arid desert and dense jungle. It's here you can really see those details pop: the way each individual plant casts its own shadow and sways in the wind, or how the tessellation effects on the water provide a smooth, undulating surface. Even the purple death goo that enemy goblins fire at you looks impressive in the way it reflects light and produces disconcerting wisps of smoke. It's a world that really comes alive with the sort of lighting and texture effects we haven't seen on current-gen systems.

It certainly doesn't hurt that Knack has a really nice art design behind it as well. It's not just a bright and colorful game, but a richly detailed one as well. The lead background artist from Shadow of the Colossus has lent his handiwork to the world of Knack, and you can see that familiar style in the way certain areas manage to feel both ornate and rugged at the same time.

It all adds up to an interesting snapshot into the future of next-gen games. Not everything coming out for these new systems is going to feature gigantic mutiplayer maps or huge sandboxes crammed with thousands of NPCs. Rather, the development team at SCE Japan Studio is aiming for something a little different with Knack. They're taking that PS4 horsepower and using it to make the cartoony world of family-friendly platformers feel that much more alive and vibrant. We'll see just how well that approach pays off when Knack launches with the PS4 this November.

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Discussion

103 comments
mac48hoser
mac48hoser

I really like Knack and would recommend it to anyone who likes platformer type games.

drbrounsuga
drbrounsuga

I'm on my second play through. I like it. It's challenging but not difficult. Ikaruga is difficult. Demons Souls is difficult. Knack is not. I definitely died more in Knack than in Shadow Fall but It has plenty of check points, you get full health when you go back to a check point, and your power meter doesn't reset when you die. A lot of the criticisms of this game  are valid but I think critics are being far too hard on it. It can be repetitive but no more than a racing game or fighting game. The enemies CONSTANTLY change their attack patterns and arrangements which is why it's challenging in the first place. People are being far too critical especially since it's a launch game, the only platformer, and just about the only new IP of the exclusives. Anyway if you have a PS4 I recommend checking out the Twitch stream of it to see if you might like it though it looks far better playing off of the console. I's say a 7.5/10 is fair.

horizonwriter
horizonwriter

I had a strong feeling the initial showing of this game didn't come close to doing it justice.  Glad to see that I was right.  The concept of Knack is pretty refreshing and it's nice to take a break from more serious games to enjoy something a bit more lighthearted from time to time.  I'll be serious enough playing Dark Souls II.  It'll be nice to have a game that I won't feel like throwing my controller over as backup.

BrutalPandaX2
BrutalPandaX2

Looking forward to this because it was directed by Mark Cerny, who worked on design in Crash Bandicoot and Spyro games plus worked on creating the PS4.

jflkdjs
jflkdjs

I was planning on getting a new 46" 3D LED TV, but now I'm wondering if I should get a 55" TV.

Andy639_basic
Andy639_basic

I don't think anyone is arguing that it looks 'this gen' from a visual perspective, but the gameplay doesn't look like it really needs any of that visual flair.  From what we've seen so far, you could make a PS3 version of the game by using common graphical shortcuts that wouldn't effect game-play much.

Of course there's nothing wrong with that in and of itself, but when it was so prominently displayed as one of the first PS4 games, it did leave some people scratching their heads.

Bangerman15
Bangerman15

I'm looking at this game because of the people behind it and I know sony's quality in exclusives hasn't let me down yet.  Might pick this up, but we will see once a few reviews come out or a demo!

The_unKnwn
The_unKnwn

Your explanation is nice and profound.  Makes it that much more interesting to get the game.


RossRichard
RossRichard

Looks decent, but this will be a game that nobody will remember 6 months after launch.

Bahamut50
Bahamut50

I'm looking forward to this game. i think it'll be one of the best launch games. But i can only hope!

darkPSPfan
darkPSPfan

so because the character design is good and looks pretty, we should keep an eye on the game?

hippiesanta
hippiesanta

after looking at the first pic ... I'm sold and a slave to mark "otacon" cerny

FeedOnATreeFrog
FeedOnATreeFrog

It's a non realistic art style.

Why would people expect it to look realistic. 

I don't get it. 

Would people expect Super Mario HD to have realistic skin or something? 

this is as next-gen as a cartoon style game could be. 

hystavito
hystavito

I don't think this game is really for me.  The overall concept is slightly interesting, but I think it would be far more interesting to me if it had an emphasis on physics to go along with all those bits and pieces.

pa_amb_tomaquet
pa_amb_tomaquet

it might look pretty but the game play is nothing new. looks boring. Just wait a few years and the ps4 titles are gonna be much better. i hope...

clr84651
clr84651

This game looks like more of a girls & child's game to me. 

Gue1
Gue1

so yeah, the graphics are pretty and.... 0_O

kljohns2
kljohns2

This game has "PS Plus free download in December" written all over it. It looks cool but it will get buried by the heavy hitters this November.

Abiz_
Abiz_

@Andy639_basic  Gameplay getting held back by console power stop being a thing major thing around the ps2, xbox, gamecube era. No such thing as next gen gameplay... It's all about experimenting and polish for gameplay now... Which sadly unless you are indy. Experimenting isn't common.

GingerFlare
GingerFlare

@Andy639_basic and? Just because it's on PS4 doesn't mean it has to have "super gameplay".

You could dumb down most, if not all, next gen games and put them on the PS3/360/PC of equal power to them. I mean, Killzone: Shadow Fall is still a FPS. And obviously they work on PS3. Project Spark could work just fine this gen. inFamous: Second Son could be dumbed down for PS3 if they wanted.

Sure they wouldn't visually look as good, but like you said they don't need it! Dumb down the graphics enough and you could probably keep the scope of a lot of them as well.


haze0986
haze0986

@darkPSPfan so you admit you didnt read the article??? what i took from this article is people who think knack was just a bad game thrown in for a launch lineup were wrong. the game looks great plays great and above all actually has depth. but i guess all they said was "it looks pretty right?"

ryogapower
ryogapower

@pa_amb_tomaquet oh.... god...... go stand in the corner with all the other pre-judging mealy-mouthed arseholes.

cavs25
cavs25

@clr84651 Your avatar is fitting.  I imagine Chris writing this while he curls some weights.

santinegrete
santinegrete

@clr84651  when you are adult you just don't care if the shows or games you're playing are childish or not: you just want to have fun the little free time you have. There's enough brown, gray and dramatic problems in real life.

Bigjoe1627
Bigjoe1627

@clr84651 It's a game made for everyone to play. Just think of it like Rachet&Clank or something like that game.

hairdie
hairdie

@clr84651 OH YEAH THATS RIGHT WE ALL LIKE GTA V NOT WHAT A CROCK OR CRAP THAT GAME TURNED OUT TO BE

Andy639_basic
Andy639_basic

@GingerFlare @Andy639_basic
I didn't use the phrase "super gameplay" so I don't know why you put it in quotes. Plus, I just said there's nothing wrong with what they're doing!  It's not  that there's anything wrong with Knack; people were just surprised that their big Next Gen reveal (which, while better than Xbone, was also considered kind of weak when it hit) involved talking up what appears to be a generic (if very pretty!) family action game.

Are people elsewhere still complaining about it? I haven't noticed if that's the case. I was just pointing out that it wasn't the graphics that people found underwhelming about Knack.

pa_amb_tomaquet
pa_amb_tomaquet

@ryogapower @pa_amb_tomaquet grow up. It's a valid point. the game play looks like ratchet and clank. you can't deny that you have not already played this game before, in some form or another. we need more games that step out side the box. such as Katamari Damacy. That game had simple graphics but awesome game play. Agree to disagree if not. Cheers.

Ovirew
Ovirew

@pa_amb_tomaquet You're complaining that there's "too much of the same out there", but then you're complaining about Knack...  Which, when compared to the other launch titles on both systems, is one of the most original upcoming new games.

bakagami
bakagami

@pa_amb_tomaquet @ryogapower you have a valid point but I really liked Ratchet and Clank games, sure I've played other games like this before but when they are done right they stand out as some of the best games I have ever played

pa_amb_tomaquet
pa_amb_tomaquet

@tom2750 @pa_amb_tomaquet @ryogapower ratchet and clank is a good game.
 and you're right it is easy to say that. to much of the same stuff out there. need more new ideas, to make all our gaming exp, better. don't get mad.

haze0986
haze0986

@pa_amb_tomaquet @ryogapower so in your eyes one of sonys best games "ratchet and clank" is bad. not only that but you say "you cant deny playing a game like this before" well i just denied you because this isnt ratchet and clank and im telling you i havent played anything like this before. if your just talking about platformers in general than its easy to say that.

jecomans
jecomans

@kljohns2 I read that Sony has pitched it for a May 2014 PS+ release for the major markets, so 6 months after launch. I'm going to spend the money to get it now because it is the only launch title that I'm interested in.