Hands-on with Knack on PS4: Delightfully Deceptive

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Hands-on with Knack on PS4: Delightfully Deceptive

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Just after the titular hero, Knack, punched a goblin clear off the screen, knocking his armor into a nearby river, it hit me: Knack, a PS4 launch title, looks stellar. It runs as smooth as silk, and brims with details both big and small. With a family-friendly atmosphere and a charming lead character, Knack seems like a great experience for young — or just newer — gamers. But gaming veterans take note: Knack will surprise you.

It was a delightful surprise, of course, softened only by Game Director Mark Cerny’s presentation just minutes before our hands-on session, in which he mentioned how tough Knack can be on higher difficulty levels. Cerny and his team want Knack to be enjoyable for all sorts of gamers, including those who expect a fierce challenge in their platformers.

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Getting a feel for Knack (And its hero, Knack!) takes minutes, at most. Knack can run, jump, attack, and use super-powered moves fueled by sun stones. Gamers of all skill levels can pick up these controls without a problem. But overcoming the challenges hurled at our hero is a totally different story.

During the latest Knack demonstration, Knack infiltrated a goblin fortress, after the goblins within invaded a human settlement. The goblin resistance was fierce, and — strangely enough — armed with high-tech tanks and weapons unusual for goblin soldiers. Very soon, Knack was faced with more aggressive enemies than one might expect.

This aggression comes in various forms. Goblins will often attack on two fronts, with one soldier rushing towards Knack with melee weapon swinging, while another hangs back with a bow to fire off bolts from afar. Handling these battles requires a deft response. Knack can dodge in any direction with a flick of the right stick, which — in my short time playing — seems critical to success. Knack has to dodge a few sword attacks, beat down one enemy, and then move onto the next.

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And these are just run-of-the-mill goblins! The campaign will hurl bigger and badder opponents at players during the game, which will call for even more delicate tactics and lightning-fast reflexes. This became clear during the brand new boss batle showed off after Cerny’s presentation. The goblin chief jumped into a giant, mechanized war machine, threatening Knack and his friends. The ensuing battle took place over several “stages,” tasking players with maneuvering close enough to the chief to land a blow.

I should note that the chief unleashed a one-hit kill attack during this battle, which blew Knack to pieces. This attack never felt unfair, though; the chief broadcasted it beforehand, giving me ample time to respond.

Knack looks beautiful, feels great, and features drop-in/drop-out cooperative play. It will definitely surprise gamers that underestimate what a family-friendly game can offer, and it launches alongside PS4 on November 15th.

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