After a disappointingly basic introduction to Knack at the launch of the PS4, the team at Sony Japan headed by Mark Cerny finally deliver on what we saw glimpses of in the first title. 4 years between releases we see a Knack that has grown up just as much as Knack’s human buddy Lucas.
Knack 2 takes us a few years into the future in a world filled with the remnants of previous civilisations, still living in a world of war between the goblins and the humans. Knack and Lucas must, again, save the world and hopefully tell an interesting story along the way.
The smooth controls and tightly designed combat moves quickly show there has been a lot of time and care poured into Knack 2 and this opening sequence does a great job of introducing all the main elements of the game. We come across lumbering robots, agile attackers, small Knack puzzle solving, large Knack carnage, ranged assailants and one of a few quick time events. This small taste gives you a chance to wrap your head around the much deeper systems in play without making you perfect anything until later in the game.
The art style remains similar to the first game with a focus on colour contrast and fantastic shadows that make the level design pop out even when moving at full speed. Textures can be spotty at times with some ground areas looking low quality while other areas quite detailed. On the otherside of the equation, animation and movement feels fluid with any periods of slowdown feeling minimal in situations where the action gets hectic. The HDR on display allows colours to shine nicely with the wide ranging visuals on display. You can also choose between a variable framerate or a 30fps lock if an unlocked framerate is distracting to you. Sounds and music hit the right spot without standing out, which is a shame but nothing feels out of place.
A character jokes at one point how strange it is that Knack was able to save the world with only three punches and a kick. This told me that the developers obviously heard criticism of the first title and took it to heart while creating the sequel. Every aspect of gameplay has been refined and expanded, with great care evident from top to bottom. This is evident in the fact that sunstone energy now acts as a damage shield rather than powering super attacks.
Knack now has a range of upgrades to unlock and combat has numerous combos and special attacks. This make dealing with the wide variety of enemies a rewarding learning experience, where with the right strategy you can make short work of combatants who originally seemed unbeatable.
The camera remains out of your control but never frames the action in an awkward position and the excellent level design avoiding any pitfalls in this regard. Knack learns special attacks along the way which moves him from being a basic brute to an absolute fighting machine. There are less areas that lean on themed relics and more focus on utilising your expanded skill set, which is much more rewarding. Platforming remains basic while puzzle solving has improved greatly with small Knack sections being a fun diversion from all the smashing and is the key way to find secrets which unlock powerup gadgets and crystal Knack’s to be used in replays.
The story for Knack 2 was crafted by Mark Cerny and veteran writer Marianne Krawczyk who do a great job laying out a good story that moves along at a fast pace to give short breaks to the action. The dialogue between characters is great, hinting at problems below the surface of this world such as parts of history being erased by the victors of past battles. Large passages of time go by over the journey and Knack is always treated as the key to overcoming obstacles and enemies. The first half of the game is paced wonderfully but the second has several false finishes which feels like dragging out events just for the sake of a few set piece moments, which although impressive and enjoyable, don’t feel as organic as the first half. It takes around 8 to 9 hours to complete and shaving an hour or two from the third quarter would likely help.
The entire game has drop in/drop out local co-op available and the game plays just as well with a friend (who is this time a fully featured Knack rather than half-hearted creation like the first game). Unfortunately online is not an option which is a huge shame considering how fantastic it is to have 2 Knack’s running amok. Hopefully a future sequel will include this as it would make for a highly entertaining experience.
Once you finish the story you have an impressive amount of options to continue your play with New Game + allowing you to restart the story with all your progress, replay separate chapters to find all the secrets you missed or meet new mission goals on each chapter to earn medals. There are also timed challenge levels and battle arenas to train and perfect which include leaderboards to climb and compare with friends.
The original Knack had gamers hoping for so much, but failed to deliver. Thankfully, the little guy from launch has been fleshed out in Knack 2. The game is full of improvements and is a much more enjoyable experience (especially in co-op). It's well worth checking out for platforming fans.