Knack 2 – For some reason Sony made Knack 2

PS4 review code provided by publisher

This writer bought the first Knack not too long after purchasing my PS4. I had a hankering for the glory days of Sony first party action platformers. I was looking forward to some challenging platforming coupled with interesting combat and if it had a half decent story, that would have been a welcome bonus.

Not a great start

What I got was one of the most vapid and uninspired games I have ever played. Knack was the video game equivalent of a medically induced coma, it slowly lulled my brain into hibernate mode with its utterly banal gameplay, levels and story. There was no challenge in the combat, no platforming to speak of and a cast of characters I had mostly forgotten before I had even finished playing.

Those opening paragraphs were written before I had actually played Knack 2. I felt like I had to get all the bile out, lest it colour my opinion of this new iteration

From what I can recall of the plot, it revolved around a professor who was contracted by Sony to make a golem/robot being capable of demonstrating how many objects the PS4 could render at one time. Then something bad happens and you are betrayed by a character with a evil looking hairdo. At this point you are tasked with steering Knack through a mix of square and rectangular areas in order to punch things until you have punched enough things for a gate to open to the next square or rectangular area to punch more things… etc. For around 10 hours. It felt like a lot more.

The response to Knack was universally lukewarm. There was nothing inherently bad in Knack, the jump button worked, the punch button worked; it was a 2 star game, it deserved a passing grade because despite everything wrong with it, it wasn’t a broken game. It also seemed like it got off lightly because it was a launch game. I am not aware of the meeting where everyone agreed that launch titles weren’t supposed to be good, but that seems to be the case. With all this in mind when Knack 2 was announced I was more than a little surprised. Who is this for? Is there an underground Knack support movement? Are there people out there yearning to find out what happens next to Knack and his motley gang of entirely forgettable humans? If there is I’m not sure I’d be that interested in meeting them. Mostly though, I just thought, why?

All Kinds of Improvements

Those opening paragraphs were written before I had actually played Knack 2. I felt like I had to get all the bile out, lest it colour my opinion of this new iteration. I’ve now completed Knack 2, and I have to say it is an upgrade in almost every area.

As it turns out my recollection of Knack 1’s story wasn’t 100% accurate. The intro movie informs me that Knack is the result of the Professors research into ancient relics and somehow his research led him to create Knack. They don’t get very specific.

Knack 2 Review
This feels familiar

The cities that the characters inhabit also use these relics in generators to power their buildings, cars, planes etc. Generators that Knack regularly smashes in order to hoover up the relics and grow larger. This, of course, begs several questions. Exactly how many ancient relics could there possibly be? Does Knack cause blackouts or brownouts with his willful destruction of city infrastructure? Surprisingly enough the game doesn’t take the time to answer these important questions. Nor does Knack 2 associate too closely with anything resembling logic in terms of story and setting.  Instead, we are reintroduced to our hero Knack and the team of humans around him, who all still look like characters Pixar would animate if they were bad at their jobs. Some ancient robots awaken, and Knack, with little or no help from his human companions must punch and kick them all.

where Knack 1 is boring and stupid Knack 2 is just stupid… and I mean that as a compliment

I am going to get the main issue I have with Knack 2 out of the way first and that is its absolutely nonsensical plot. As I mentioned the plot revolves around “ancient” robots awakening. My problem with this is exactly how ancient these robots are supposed to be. This is definitely bordering on nit-pick territory and I am probably unreasonably upset by this – 200 years old. In the world of Knack, 200 years is the ancient past. Or at least long enough for everyone to forget everything that had happened. The nicely animated flashbacks to 200 years before the game portray humans as fur-wearing, stone weapon-using primitives. In the world of knack, humans got from the Stone Age to the modern era in 200 years. Still though, where Knack 1 is boring and stupid Knack 2 is just stupid, and I mean that as a compliment.

To give Knack 2 its full due, every aspect of the gameplay has been improved. For starters this is a game that now includes proper old-school platforming, there’s ropes to swing on, moving platforms, see-saw platforms, platforms that begin to crumble as soon as you step on them, all the platforms! This is a game that doesn’t have new ideas, just recycles old ones.  However, the ideas that this game is recycling are ones that have been tried and tested for decades. In the previous game there was virtually no platforming, which was not something you would expect from an action platformer.

Knack 2 Review
Memories of World 1-2

Less Repetition

The combat in Knack 2 has also been totally revamped. There is still a lot of moving through square areas punching enemies. With an expanded move set however, the monotony present in the previous game has been significantly lessened. The combat is smooth and can even look quite slick at times.. The newly added block mechanic works well, and if timed correctly you can use this to knock projectiles back at the enemies who fired them. This requires skill and sharp reflexes and is quite satisfying when you pull it off. The enemy variety has increased too, presenting a much more robust and compelling challenge than before. There is also a newly included levelling system which increases Knacks power and move-set and is a welcome addition.

The levels in Knack 2 have much more variety and personality. A player will traverse mountainous paths, fight through city streets, search for pyramids in dense jungles, and explore ancient goblin cities, to name a few

As Knack moves through a level he will gather relics which increase his size. In the course of a level Knack can more than double in size, eventually towering over groups of enemies who, at the start of the level, would have posed a real threat individually. This gives a real tangible sense of increasing power and progression, and there’s some satisfaction to be had there.

Knack 2 review
Hello rectangle my old friend, I’ve come to punch in you again

Far and away the best change that has occurred between Knack and Knack 2 is the level design. In Knack 1 the levels consisted of drab corridors punctuated with square arenas which all blended into one. The levels in Knack 2 have much more variety and personality. You will traverse mountainous paths, fight through city streets, search for pyramids in dense jungles, and explore ancient goblin cities, to name a few. There are puzzles in each level which increase in complexity as you go through the game.

Knack 2 review
A definite improvement from Knack 1

Reasons to Keep Playing

All of the levels also have treasure chests to be found and secret paths to explore. With the touch of a button knack can shed most of his relics, drastically reducing his size. This allows him to hop onto narrow platforms or disappear down holes in the environment searching for those elusive chests. The levels in Knack 2 reward exploration with the treasure chests granting gadgets that can increase Knack’s abilities in useful ways. The developers have also included an over-world map where you can clearly see which levels have missed secrets prompting the player to replay levels to complete collections.

The story was daft and occasionally caused me to yell at how completely illogical it all was

Bring a Friend

Much like Knack, Knack 2 also includes couch coop where your partner takes up the controls of Blue Knack. There was a lot of work put into this mode and it shows. This is a great addition for parents with younger players. With the touch of R2 you will be appear right beside your partner. This helps keep the flow of the game going. When your team reaches one of the more difficult platforming sections, as soon as either person manages to navigate it, a quick press of R2 you can keep going to the next section. There are also a suite of offensive moves that are unique to coop mode where you and your partner will work together to do more damage. The only issues I encountered in coop were to do with the camera, but they weren’t enough to hamper enjoyment too much.

Pressing the tip button will point you in the right direction

When it comes to sound design and graphics, Knack 2 fares well. It doesn’t do exceptionally well at either but it’s certainly adequate. Being a first party game the developers were probably contractually obligated to make use of the PlayStation controller’s speaker and its used sparingly but quite well. The voice acting is grating but that certainly suits the characters. The environments all look very nice, the style is simplistic, but battles can occasionally get frantic with a lot of enemies involved so the clarity that comes from the graphical style is appreciated.

What we’re left with is a sequel that expands upon and improves the original in almost every way, as sequels should. While playing Knack 2 I found myself compelled to keep going. The story was daft and occasionally caused me to yell at how completely illogical it all was.

However the most important part of a game like this is always going to be its gameplay and Knack 2 certainly shines in that regard. It is a game that gives me what I was looking for in Knack 1, an old school action platformer, a bit of jumping, a bit of fighting and a few puzzles thrown in. I’d recommend it for someone looking for a suitable game for a younger gamer. For someone a little older looking for nostalgic action platforming fun, I’d probably ask them if they’ve played the remake of Ratchet and Clank.