Knack 2 PS4 Review: Bigger & (A Little) Better

7
  • Playstation 4
  • Action
  • Platformer
2017-09-05
knack_review
Knack 2 is a sequel that expands upon its predecessor in combat, but its dated platforming and generic story make the experience feel average. Knack 2 is available now on PS4. SONY INTERACTIVE ENTERTAINMENT/Player.One

I have a confession to make: I actually sort of enjoyed the first Knack. Despite the trolling and partially deserved scorn, it was a decent PS4 launch title, even if it didn’t feel quite as complete as it should’ve been. Does Kanck 2 fix the shortcomings of its predecessor? Mostly, but despite these improvements, the experience still feels shallow.

At the outset, Knack 2 begins very much like the first game. There’s some simplified button-mashing combat, floaty platforming sequences and the odd puzzle mixed in for good measure. This trio of elements defines the sequel’s solo and co-op gameplay loop throughout, but thankfully it’s expanded in some notable ways.

Starting with combat, quite possibly the biggest addition to the Knack 2 arsenal is a brand new leveling system coupled with a skill tree. As you kill goblins, robots and bugs during the 14-hour campaign, using points can give Knack new abilities and upgrade existing ones. Beyond the standard punch, kick and dodge, skillful play unlocks a super satisfying body slam, a lasso maneuver that slows down enemies and a powerful finisher that disrupts electrical energy from the narrative’s devious robots.

Knack 2 combat
Combat is the best part of Knack 2. Photo: Sony Interactive Entertainment

With all these new moves at your disposal, the combat of Knack 2 is easily the game’s best asset. When playing on harder difficulty levels, blocking, parrying and the advantages of each attack come into play regularly. There’s no move on the roster that can be ignored, and that makes each fight a ton of fun, especially if you’ve collected enough relics to grow to a Godzilla-like size.

As those who’ve played the first Knack will know, the character’s signature perk is that he can shrink and grow at will. It’s a major element in the sequel’s platforming sections. The design here feels uninspired, however, and hasn’t evolved much beyond what Crash Bandicoot accomplished in the ‘90s.

With that retro feel comes the reemergence of frustrations that shouldn’t exist in a 2017 game. For one, the game’s camera angle is fixed from beginning to end. With no way to adjust it, jumping angles are sometimes harder than they need to be and the next point of progress is occasionally obscured. The loss of control even paves the way for bizarre leaps of faith that make the action feel dated. It doesn’t help that Knack’s jumping feels merely adequate, as opposed to good. These shortcomings are alleviated by frequent checkpoints, but in-game acknowledgment of the game’s control flaws isn’t as effective as an outright fix would’ve been.

Knack 2 platforming
Platforming can be frustrating due to the game’s fixed camera. Photo: Sony Interactive Entertainment

One slightly modern touch is Knack 2’s sense of scale and open environments. It’s certainly not open-world, but it’s now on pace with the “wide linear” format of an Uncharted game. Also like Uncharted, these wider areas give the player room to explore and hunt for treasure. The clusters of XP and power-ups buried in dark corners offer incentive to explore environments, but that small wrinkle is just a tiny distraction as opposed to a significant game changer.

As for puzzles, you won’t see too much new here, either. Some of them are actually surprisingly difficult for this kid-friendly game, but they’re fairly ordinary in concept: use boxes to find your way to a higher ledge, bend beams of light with mirrors and align platforms to navigate to the next checkpoint. There were a few too many of these moments, but they were paced perfectly between major set piece battles.

Knack 2 puzzle
You’ve seen puzzles like this before. Photo: Sony Interactive Entertainment

Puzzles slow down the campaign a bit, but the story isn’t  engaging enough to make the loop feel frustrating. Knack and his gang of totally inept explorers stumble across the robot technology of an ancient goblin race that eventually finds its way into the wrong hands. Interwoven throughout that arc are themes of trust, betrayal and even some light teen romance. The dialogue is sometimes cringe-worthy, but it all serves a purpose. In short, the story of Knack 2 is basically a B-list kids movie.

Therein les the truth about Knack 2. While obvious improvements in combat and larger world designs make Knack 2 more like the game that should’ve released in 2013, its basic platforming and cliche story make the finished product feel generic. It’s not bad by any means, but it feels uninspired. It might be a worth a look after a price drop from its $39.99 MSRP if you’ve got kids and a hankering for family-friendly co-op, but it’s not the redemptive comeback story we would’ve preffered.

Knack 2 is available now on PS4.

Are you willing to give Knack 2 a shot? Do you think we’ll see a third game? Tell us in the comments section!

REVIEW SUMMARY
Knack 2
7
Knack 2 PS4 Review: Bigger & (A Little) Better
Knack 2 improves on its predecessor but still manages to feel dated due to a cliche story, wonky platforming and uninspired puzzles.
  • More varied gameplay in levels
  • Couch co-op is always appreciated
  • Combat is smartly expanded
  • Platforming can be frustrating
  • Puzzles are uninspired
  • Cliche story
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