When the PlayStation 4 launched in North America on November 15th, 2013, Lead Architect Mark Cerny played an integral role in creating a brand new IP to coincide with Sony’s eighth generation console release. This exclusive launch title was Knack, a platforming beat ’em up game that received mixed reviews and was harshly criticized by several notable media outlets.
With the release of Knack 2, SIE Japan Studio has succeeded in making a better game than its predecessor with improved combat and creative platforming to keep players fully engaged from start to finish. Here are a few more reasons why this sequel might be worth looking into further.
Knack 2 takes place over the course of a year after the events of the first game. Shortly after witnessing the destruction of a city, Knack joins forces with Lucas, Ryder and a young female monk named Ava to find and stop these new adversaries once and for all. Players will encounter evil robots and ancient goblins throughout the 10-11 hour campaign. There are a total of 100 treasure chests to find in the campaign along with hidden gadgets and crystal relics. Lastly, there’s also a cool option to complete the adventure alone or with a friend through local cooperative play in one of four different difficulty settings.
The overall narrative structure of Knack 2 is coherent for the most part but may be hard for someone to follow if they aren’t paying attention. This 15 chapter adventure expands across various destinations and the plot constantly shifts around to highlight moments before and after the city is destroyed. Lucas and Ryder serve the primary function of offering puzzle solving tips to Knack while Ava often aids in giving our hero new fighting abilities from time to time. While the story might not be the strongest aspect of the game, it does succeed in giving players plenty of intriguing content to sink their teeth into.
Graphically, Knack 2 is pretty much on par with the first game but offers slightly more in terms of resolution and frame rate options for PS4 Pro owners. The high definition mode is designed to support 4K TVs while the frame rate mode manages to render the game at 1080p with a stable 60fps. Cutscenes remain fairly consistent in look and tone when transitioning to gameplay. While the presentation isn’t a native 4K experience, the general art style is eye-catching and will keep your undivided attention.
The two standout features that really define the overall Knack 2 gameplay experience lie solely within the refined combat system and classic platforming aesthetics. Knack now has the ability to use more than 20 different moves ranging from brutal multi-punch attacks and body slams to flying kicks and highly concentrated power punches. On the platforming side of things, Knack can alter his size from big to small under various circumstances to navigate through obstacles and complete puzzles. Stealth Knack also returns along with other variations of his form depending on each scenario. All of these dynamics combined together easily makes this a fascinating journey worth exploring.
With so many positives already said about Knack 2, there are at least two key criticisms that I have about this game. The first one comes directly from the repetitive nature of enemy encounters from start to finish. While there is a shift in enemy types from goblins to robots, the formulaic approach to solving a puzzle only to enter a new area filled with more enemies to dispose of gets tiresome after awhile. I understand that this is a beat em’ up and these encounters have to happen, but perhaps it feels too repetitive because of the extended length of the game.
The other issue I have lies within the main protagonist. While Knack has a good demeanor towards helping people and his constant shape-shifting abilities are cool, the overall character seems to be lacking a little personality. He comes off as a loyal pet the way he takes orders from Lucas and the others and often he is always the one doing all of the work. There’s obviously nothing wrong with this approach to character development or lack thereof but I do think if he was tweaked further than he could be another Sony mascot character next to Aloy, Kratos, and Nathan Drake.
Despite my personal gripes with the game, Knack 2 is still a great title that’s perfect for both kids and adults alike. The meaty campaign, satisfying combat, platforming, and clever puzzles really succeeds in making the overall package compelling. If you avoided the first game, then you definitely should check out this sequel. You may discover that you’ll be just as pleasantly surprised with the combat and platforming as I was.
This review was based on a digital review copy of Knack 2 for the PlayStation 4 provided by Sony Interactive Entertainment.