Getting the Knack of the PS4's family-friendly launch game

There's been a lot of talk about the unique advantage Knack has because its director is Mark Cerny, the PS4's lead architect. When the launch game was first shown at the console's reveal, the focus was on the many moving parts of Knack himself. At E3, producer Yusuke Watanabe told me Knack can be made up of anything between 70 and 5000 parts, and can grow to as much as 30 ft tall.

It was impressive to see the power of the hardware, but what grabbed my attention with Knack is how easy it was to pick up and enjoy the game, at least for the brief time I had with it. The controls were simple: a jump button, one major attack button for brawling the goblin enemies, another button for bonus attack moves, and finally dodging with the right stick. There were some combinations, like dodging then attacking, jump attacks, and three two-button combos involving the bonus attack button, but I didn't see anything more complicated than that. The attacks themselves looked great, with Knack's parts flying around he swiped, rolled, and most pleasingly blew up.

The game's environments were similarly welcoming. I played through four levels, two set in a city, one in an ice cavern, and another in what looked like a palace. Each one was lit with a warmth and depth reminiscent of a Pixar movie - and Watanabe noted Pixar as one of the inspirations for Knack. %Gallery-191361% "The main purpose of this game is to have that warmth and friendliness," Watanabe told me. There were hints of Ratchet and Clank in my playthrough, not surprising given Cerny's Insomniac Games roots, and that charm was particularly apparent when I transformed into Stealth Knack, a cute little transparent version of the robot.

Stealth Knack wasn't just a waddling miniature Knack; he was able to sneak past lazers and into hidden tunnels, and in the latter he found items that I could use to make Knack stronger. A clever twist here was that I could either take the item I found, or I could choose to take an item that one of my (hypothetical) PS4 friends found in the same location.

One possible sacrifice of the game's simple charm was a lack of variety in the play; apart from using a massive version of Knack to grab and throw cars into helicopters - which is admittedly cool - my half hour with Knack was mostly made up of limited brawling. Then again, I only saw so much of the game. Also, Sony Japan has yet to show all that much of the story, and the charm of that story will be key to the family-friendly appeal Sony Japan is going for.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.