When the PlayStation 4 was released in 2013, one of the few release titles it launched with was Knack. An action beat’em up with platforming and puzzle sections, it was meant to show off the PlayStation 4’s ability to handle lots of particles. Knack did that quite well but never amounted to much more than a technology demonstration. It was so universally panned by fans that as Knack 2 was announced, its expected failure was heralded on the internet by a bevy of sarcastic memes and bewilderment.
Why would they bother? Perhaps developer Sony Interactive Entertainment Japan Studio wanted another chance at the Knack franchise. The core premise is great: a creature made from the ancient relics of a long dead civilization that is able to grow and shrink as the situation demands. Sadly, Knack failed in almost every way: story, character, platforming, combat and fun.
Knack 2 is fun and a surprising improvement in almost every aspect.
Knack 2 is all about size. Next to the health bar on the top of the screen there is a measurement that tells you how tall Knack is at any given moment. Knack usually starts out as an adorably small relic-guy, growing larger by collecting relics as each chapter progresses, occasionally becoming a tank-tossingly tall behemoth easily capable of dispatching foes that were at one point formidable. Knack has the ability to shed excess relics and shrink down to find secrets, solve puzzles, and dodge attacks. Knack is harder to hit and can fit into tight places when he’s small, but is also extremely vulnerable.
There isn’t much to say about the story. It’s a competent vehicle to keep the action moving along. Knack has much more personality than before, and there is some humor injected into the dialogue that, while never eliciting a laugh, never made me cringe, either. Old characters return, and new ones are introduced – all of it is competently voiced, but never once did I feel much emotion, even as terrible things were happening to the protagonists. Not bad, merely okay, but it doesn’t detract from the fun of the gameplay.
There are decent puzzles and tricky platforming sections in Knack 2, but Knack solves most problems by punching things. Instead of just his usual punching and kicking, Knack has learned a few new tricks to change up combat like flurry punches, a grab, and a shield that can deflect projectiles back to their source. Combat is pretty fun and a vast improvement from the original – and you’ll be doing a lot of it in Knack 2. There is almost non-stop action during the entire campaign. The combat can get pretty challenging, especially towards the end of the campaign. Luckily, you can bring a friend to help out whenever you want. Knack 2 is able to be played cooperatively with a friend with drop-in, drop-out multiplayer. Couch co-op only, unfortunately – no online multiplayer.
As the campaign progresses, Knack gets access to new combat moves and different skill options open up. Instead of a skill tree, there is a skill wheel. After you purchase the base skills in one quadrant of the wheel, the next opens up. You can choose which skill to purchase first, but you have to get all of the base skills before the next quadrant will open, removing the ability to build Knack to different specifications and forcing you to take skills you may not want.
Knack 2 has managed to undo a lot of the original game’s damage, but it may not be good enough to overcome the Knack reputation, which is too bad – Knack 2 is a good game. It may not win a game of the year award, but it’s a fun platformer and brawler that realizes much of the potential of its predecessor. Knack 2 is available now on PlayStation 4.