The original Knack was a launch title for the PS4 and critically panned upon release. Its gameplay was considered shallow and repetitive, with the story and character development also being uninspiring. Somehow, Japan Studio were greenlit to develop a sequel. Knack 2 isn’t going to set your world on fire but it’s at least a competent platformer that improves on the original and is a decent family friendly title.
Knack 2’s story centres around the titular character and his human companions who go on an adventure to explore some ruins. However, their trip turns sour as they soon discover that evil goblins are resurrecting ancient robots to destroy all of mankind. Much like the original, the story here is largely uninspired. There’s no chemistry between characters, the plot is basic and is only there to “get the job done”, and there’s just a general lack of appeal. Knack himself has no personality, only occasionally delivering the odd joke.
Knack 2 is a fairly standard platformer. You progress through linear paths by jumping onto ledges, avoiding hazards and solving occasional puzzles. The puzzles usually amount to flicking switches to activate doors, moving blocks around to assist in reaching higher areas and reflecting lasers off mirrors. While the game ultimately does this well, it also lacks innovation as all of these tropes have been done to death in the platforming genre.
One of the more interesting mechanics however is Knack’s ability to grow in size by collecting relics; small rock-like orbs. Players can shed the relics at will with a simple button press, causing Knack to shrink in size so he can access hidden areas which contain puzzles or collectible items. For platforming segments, the shrink ability is also used to duck under small crevices.
Knack 2 also has a focus on combat. While progressing through levels players will often enter small arena-like areas where enemies attack. Knack’s increasing size will gradually make him more powerful in combat – at the start of a level Knack will be considerably weak and it will take multiple punches and kicks to bring down foes. Once he’s a towering juggernaut though, Knack becomes an unstoppable force and defeats enemies in an instant with a single swipe. It’s incredibly satisfying.
Combat in the original game was considered repetitive and unengaging, but thankfully this has been alleviated somewhat thanks to enemies requiring different tactics to defeat. Some will fire long-range weapons which Knack can reflect back, others will charge towards Knack at high speeds, and some will even have a shield protecting them. To overcome the baddies, Knack has a host of brand new moves including multi-punches, mega punches, spin kicks and body slams. While repetition does eventually set in, it’s not as bad as its predecessor and is broken up evenly with platforming segments. Quite often though combat does feel a little cheap, more so because enemies have the tendency to gang up on Knack and attack in succession before you have a chance to recover.
A new feature introduced in Knack 2 is two player co-op multiplayer. Here, players take on the role of two different coloured Knacks and can complete the story together. It’s genuinely fun teaming up against enemies as you can watch each other’s backs. Exclusive to co-op play is the ability to warp to the other player’s location on the screen, which is particularly useful for younger gamers who may struggle with some of the trickier platforming segments. It also ensures their co-op partner doesn’t get stuck waiting for them to catch up.
Knack 2’s environments range from spectacular forests and mountain ranges, to townships, factories and large cities. The aesthetics are really impressive, and at times resemble a high quality tech demo. This isn’t too surprising given one of Knack 2’s directors, Mark Cerny, was the lead architect for the PS4 console. The music in Knack 2 features mostly orchestral tunes which, while not particularly memorable, are designed to reflect your surroundings. The mountain ranges for example are calmer and have clear eastern influences due to the use of flute arrangements.
Knack 2 doesn’t particularly excel in any area, often lacking innovation and largely being a safe platformer title. While it has redeeming features such as its kid-friendly co-op multiplayer and general improvements over the original title, at the same time there are simply better options available on the PS4. In a year where Crash Bandicoot made a triumphant comeback and Ratchet & Clank can be purchased cheaply, there’s simply not a lot of appeal in Knack 2.
- Kid-friendly co-op play - Improves on the original game
- Combat difficulty can feel cheap - A very safe platformer title - Characters and story are bland