Tag Archive: PlayStation 4


When Knack launched alongside the PlayStation 4 back in 2013, it didn’t exactly take the world by storm. Although it was a pretty game that showed off some of the power of the system—with Knack being able to shrink and grow as he absorbed or lost relics over the course of a level—many found the gameplay severely lacking. So, when I had a chance recently to go hands-on with Knack 2—and have the game’s director, PlayStation 4 architect and legendary game developer Mark Cerny serve as my co-op buddy—I was curious to see firsthand what changes the series had undergone from its initial entry (and hear about them from the man himself).

Knack was a very different concept. I was focused on making a game that was accessible to people who had never played a video game before, and thought that would be an interesting part of the PlayStation 4 as a launch title,” explained Cerny as we loaded up the first level. “That ended up being a pretty heavy focus, which meant no platforming and a fairly small moveset. Knack 2 is very different title from that; the focus here is more squarely on gameplay.”

And Cerny wasn’t kidding about that. He ended up showing me seven sections of the game in our demo that highlighted not only a wide variety of different gameplay challenges, but also an expanded moveset for Knack punctuated by four skill trees. It should be noted that some moves are story based, and only by advancing so far in certain levels will Knack unlock them—like a super-strong punch that can shatter enemy shields. Collecting energy in each level can unlock many others, however, and then you can invest that energy into new moves or improve upon those you’ll obtain via progress.

Easily one of my favorite things I experienced in the demo was how expanded Knack’s moveset had become as a whole. Knack can now create a shield that, if timed properly, will deflect bolts and blasts back at enemies. He also has a bola-like projectile weapon that can ensnare foes, making them easy targets for a combo or removing them temporarily from a fight as you focus on other targets. Kicks, body slams, and yes, even more punches round out Knack’s repertoire. One of my favorites was a Fist of the North Star-style flurry of fists that sees Knack move super quick, rapidly punching an enemy several times.

Co-op also sees some combat improvements. Cerny mentioned in our conversation that something he and his team noticed amongst younger players is they’d often take a whack at each other as often as they would Goblins. So, a new move incorporated into co-op is if you hit your buddy, a single relic will fly off like a bullet at an enemy. This way, even if you’re simply messing around, movement isn’t wasted, and can still serve a purpose in gameplay and combat.

As great as it is to see the depth of combat now present in Knack 2, the biggest additions probably come with the breadth of gameplay now available to you. Entire sections of levels are dedicated just to true platforming, exploring, and puzzle solving. In fact, by changing sizes at will, I would have to shrink to Knack’s smallest from to fit into onto smaller ledges and platforms to reach certain areas, and then quickly switch back to a larger from for combat. Knack’s smallest from is all necessary to navigate tiny crevices in cliff sides or Goblin fortresses and discover energy for leveling up, or pieces of technology that can bestow Knack with even more in-game abilities.

There’s a bit of a lottery to the item pieces you’ll discover, however, so there’s even a social aspect added to discovering treasure. If friends of yours have received items you’d rather have from the same treasure chest in their playthrough of Knack 2, you can trade what you received to get the same item they snagged. And, if you don’t have a lot of friends playing Knack 2, don’t worry: there will be some computer explorers that can offer up some options, too.

Other levels, meanwhile, add a stealth element. For example, you’ll have to push crates around with Knack to avoid searchlights while hiding in the shadows to prevent alarms from being set off as you infiltrate a certain someone’s home. You’ll also have to use the size-changing ability—which now features the added bonus of always letting you know just how tall Knack is at a given moment thanks to a height counter in the game’s HUD (if visuals weren’t enough for you)—to shrink and hide under awnings or canopies to avoid robots on patrol.

Knack 2 even brings driving segments to the series. One section of our demo saw Knack get in a tank and drive around destroying enemies and encampments; when playing co-op, one player drives the tank while the other operates the turret. Some other levels also have turret emplacements scattered about, and Knack can climb into one to really whittle down Goblin forces with some green energy blasts.

As the demo was winding down, I admit I was sad to see my time with Knack 2 coming to an end. I hadn’t had this much fun with an action-platformer in a while; the variety of gameplay was stellar, everything handled very tightly, the game looked great, and the writing had me chuckling in my chair. Cerny was quick to point out that bringing on Marianne Krawczyk, writer of the God of War series, to write Knack 2 was a critical move. Although the game is still very much gameplay-driven, having her veteran hand come in for key narrative moments—like where an ally of Knack makes fun of him (and the first game) for only having three punches—was a big boost, and allowed Cerny to focus on directing the gameplay that has made such hugely evident strides.

Although it’s scheduled to release during what’s looking like a very busy second half of 2017, if you’re searching for a fun, high-quality action-adventure that the whole family can enjoy, don’t sleep on Knack 2. With its new depth of gameplay and tight controls, it’s like Knack has finally found all the pieces to turn itself from a pipsqueak PlayStation 4 exclusive into a game to be reckoned with—one that can hold its own with the big boys of the system.

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When Kerbal Space Program first rocketed onto the scene, I missed the shuttle. I openly admit to my preference of console games over those on PC, and thusly I’m usually late getting on board with every Indie darling that finds its way onto Steam. It’s not that I’m living under a rock and don’t hear of these games, to be clear. It’s just that, when not reviewing the occasional PC title for EGM, I instead often wait for them to inevitably go on sale—or, in this case, get ported to a different platform. So, it was with great zeal that I got a chance recently to finally try the fun, yet educational, game that has the likes of Elon Musk and scientists at NASA buzzing alongside the gaming community on the PlayStation 4.

For those completely unaware, Kerbal Space Program puts you in charge of a new space program on the planet Kerbin, modeled after that on our own Earth. You must construct rockets and other spacecraft in a state of the art space center, using those creations to then explore the solar system and its various planets and moons. Along the way, you’ll have to complete challenges that further the Kerbal people’s quest to better understand their universe, while also furthering your own space-faring knowledge.

As soon as the demo kicked off, I was tasked with building my own rocket ship. With far more parts unlocked for me than what you would start with at the beginning of the game, my creation could be described as nothing short of Frankenstein’s monster-like as I mixed and matched through the various ship component categories. Small thrusters connected to giant fuel tanks, with a mid-sized cockpit and a radar dish on the cone just for kicks. With his mouth agape in horror at my concoction, KSP producer Jose Luis Vives shakily told me to take it for a test drive.

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Surprisingly, my rocket actually made it off the ground. With absolutely no balance, however, and my inexperience with the controls, the ship quickly came back down to the ground and began pinwheeling almost instantly. I found my abomination bouncing along the terrain before shattering into several pieces, and the thrusters flying off into the horizon before exploding.

For better or worse, though, I was hooked. I wanted to know how to make the proper spaceship. I wanted to learn and create in this universe laid out before me, and bring my newfound knowledge to the green humanoid masses of Kerbin. And if a few explosions happened along the ways of my trials and errors, well, so be it.

It was then decided I should instead see what a fully functional ship could do, so one of the team’s saved designs was loaded up—and this only made me fall more in love with what KSP was doing. This was a rocket ship, the kind you see in history books and old footage from the Apollo landings. After being walked through the controls, I took off, heading for the great unknown. My own personal mission, though, was just to make it to the moon.

As I jettisoned used fuel canisters and unnecessary sections of the ship, it wasn’t long before I had broken atmosphere. It was here, though, where my mission went awry. I found myself fighting with the controller often during my demo, the actually piloting portion of the gameplay for KSP requiring a more delicate touch than either the PS4 controller or I could provide. I wasted a lot of fuel course-correcting on my way up into orbit, and because of that, just as I kissed the blackness of deep space, I found myself being pulled down towards the ground faster than I left it due to Kerbin’s gravitational pull.

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Human error was clearly a factor in my failure, but after having had a chance to familiarize myself more with the controls, I felt this was one area that the port was lacking. I’m fine with a port between systems simply repackaging the same game and just including previous add-ons and what not considering it’s the first time a new audience may be seeing it. But optimizing your controls for that new system is critical, and the more I learned about KSP, the more I saw that this was still an experience where a mouse and keyboard holds far greater appeal than a standard controller.

The button layout was not intuitive to what I needed to perform well, and while a deeper look showed some controller options, the defaults felt unnatural. Again, playing the game from the start might alleviate some of the difficulty I continued to have over my hour with the title, but clicking down on the controller’s sticks even brought up a mouse reticle to select different options on screen—showing that as far as the Kerbin people might travel into space, KSP had not traveled very far in its port over to consoles.

Poor controls aside, I refused to be deterred. I hopped into a new version of the previously saved ship, conveniently reconstructed for me by the Kerbal people, and again took off for the stars, this time breaking free of Kerbin’s pull. With enough fuel—and a straight enough trajectory—to steer towards a celestial body, my original goal of the moon was within sight. Once in the emptiness of space, I could finally truly plan my course. Pulling out to map view, I set a maneuver node—a device that would automatically correct my ship towards a particular path (great for deep space exploration)—to plot a course for my ship and my ragtag three-Kerbal crew. What I failed to take into consideration, though, was that the moon would continue to orbit as I made a beeline for it. And I had, again, run out of fuel. I drifted harmlessly by the moon, set off on an endless course into the abyss, having never reached my goal by the time my session finished up.

So, besides me being an awful astronaut, what did I learn during my experience with Kerbal Space Program for consoles? That it’s true in capturing the spirit of the original game, and is coming over with all the bells and whistles that had slowly been added over time on PC. Unfortunately, the controls are also a little too true to form, and had me longing for a mouse and keyboard. Still, it has me chomping at the bit to grab my space helmet and suit up alongside the Kerbin again when Kerbal Space Program drops sometime in the first half of 2016 on Wii U, Xbox One, and PS4.

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