When the PS4 launched four years ago, one launch title that had a mixed reception was Knack. A game underappreciated by many due to its simplicity, appreciated by a few – including myself – despite its simplicity, has become almost a meme at this point, and now its sequel is here to prove the lovers or the haters right.
For the uninitiated, Knack is based in a world where rocks called relics power all the technology in their world. Dr. Vargas and his assistant Lucas created a device that can hold together relics, creating a sentient creature known as Knack. Knack can pull together varying relics to increase or decrease his size, and thanks to some relics powers, gain elemental powers.
Their new adventure tells a story about Knack, Lucas, and Ryder who while out exploring old ruins from the old war against the goblin, find old robots spark to life. They then proceed to kick some goblin and robot ass while they investigate what is causing the robots to spark back to life and then beating these threats posed to humans everywhere.
The premise is fun enough, and the story is entertaining, in a fun kid’s movie way, but this wasn’t the area that the first game struggled in. The initial game’s biggest criticism was gameplay, which is handled cleverly in this game. Starting out with what was the same attack variation, Knack 2 leads you to the home of monks where Ava comments that she can’t believe you saved the world with only – paraphrased – simple punches and a kick before proceeding to give you your first new major skill.
Knack 2 is funny at times, but the examples where it rips on its own previous shortcomings as a franchise are its best. It gives a self-awareness not lost on many, but more importantly, it uses this to make itself better. There is no better way to joke about lack of variety than before introducing variety.
The combat in Knack 2 has substantially improved with short, long ranged, light and heavy attacks, among others, mixing up the combat to ensure it doesn’t get stale. The significant improvement in fighting is accompanied by improvements in level design, most notably its puzzles. These puzzles vary from using different relic’s powers in creative ways to my preference where you change paths as giant knack for little knack to then use to get where he needs to go.
Outside of the gameplay elements, the design has changed significantly too. The first game had a Pixar feel and look that showed some of the PS4’s power. Knack 2 has kept its exaggerated limb sizes, but with more detail in the faces and clothing has carved out its own unique style, to glorious results.
Knack 2 has kept some elements to ensure it doesn’t lose its originals fans either. With its humour and characters kept it still feels the same as Knack, also keeping its weird social treasure hunting aspect. When you find a hidden treasure chest in the world it gives you a random part of either a gadget or part of a gemstone knack. Collecting all the required parts gifts you the item, but more importantly, it shows what other people got from the chest, and you can choose that part instead of what you got.
The other thing is its use of co-op. The first game had co-op but in Knack 2 anyone can jump into a game at any time by powering up a second controller. This created a blue Knack to join in the action, and this Knack disappears if the controller is abandoned for long enough. Cut scenes have been handled interestingly where the Knack’s merge and during any button prompts, most players must hit them or it fails. It’s a clever way to make co-op optional albeit to not hold players back if their partner doesn’t want to play for a week, and worked fluently every time.
8.1/10 – Knack 2 is a substantial improvement on its predecessor, with a fun, charming story, with entertaining platforming and solid action. Not without its flaws, like a weird story beat where Ava gives skills by creating glowing energy balls to Knack, and one especially clunky robot level, It’s a fantastic family friendly game. At about half the price of an AAA game, it’s easily worth the entry price.