Usually games are made with a specific vision in mind. Sometimes someone really wants to make the interactive world of their dreams, recreate a childhood memory or just express themselves, but other times games are designed with a function. One such game was Knack. The unusual action platformer was created to fill a void when the PlayStation 4 launched, which was about the only thing it accomplished. Between underwhelming gameplay, hard stages and generic designs, Knack was destined to be forgotten. Despite all this and more, Knack is back, with a number of exciting changes. Will these be enough to save Knack 2 from the same fate or was one more than enough?
Knack 2 tells the type of story you’d expect from a Dreamworks movie. Lucas, the young hero, and his pal Knack team up to stop a fairly quirky villain from destroying humanity, which quickly becomes much. The set up and story itself don’t go anywhere new, with some of the twists moving the story in a more predictable direction, with the main draw being the message.
When push comes to shove, Knack 2 tries to deal with the emotional side of things, commenting on things like trust, friendship, faith and believing in yourself. This helps the story have some weight, enough to make players care about Lucas’ journey, though not enough to make it stand out next to similar series.
What makes Knack 2 stand out is the difficulty. On lower levels it isn’t too bad, with Knack being able to withstand a multitude of attacks, though hard rides the line between challenging and cheap. More often than not, what resulted in my death was something cheap. Enemies repeatedly using moves that I either didn’t currently have the abilities to counter or the time to use or chaining attacks. Nothing is more frustrating than one enemy shooting rockets, breaking your shield, followed by three heavy attacks immediately after, resulting in a near instant death.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about the difficulty is how easily it is to do the same to enemies. Knack’s boomerang and heavy punch are a brutal combo. Enemies hit with the boomerang will be stunned for a brief period of time, giving you ample time to follow up with a heavy punch or kill other enemies. Hookshot works in a similar way, just with less range, more risk and smaller windows to retaliate. By utilizing this combo correctly, the difficulty sharply drops until players make it to enemies that have the same ability and then that becomes a problem.
Even if Knack 2’s combat has some low points, it still makes for a fun brawler. Perhaps not as great as God of War or Ratchet and Clank, though certainly close, assuming players select the right difficulty for their skill. This is especially true for the platforming sections.
Regardless of how well you handle enemies, Knack 2 is still a platformer, meaning players will have to transverse a variety of locations. These range from a giant robot, similar to Shadow of the Colossus, to factors, building and similar locations. Lower difficulties allow less skilled players the ability to skip some of the more frustrating sections. This is optional, so if you want to try these sections you can or simply opt out to get to the next area.
Unlike a lot of games, Knack 2 does a pretty good job with hidden items. None of them are so hard players will need a guide, though a handy radar can be unlocked by finding and assembling it if you want some help, with most of them being optional steps to a puzzle or hidden in plain sight.
This gives them a nice balance. By looking for out of place items, unusual designs or just seemingly empty areas, players will likely find them. A few require some backtracking or looking in unusual places, where the radar comes in handy, so don’t expect them all to be other either. At most, there is a good balance between tricky, additional puzzle steps, going the “wrong” way and paying attention to areas that stand out.
Couch co-op fans will also likely have a blast with Knack 2. Not only does it support drop in multiplayer, meaning you can start whenever you want, it is more about having fun than anything else. Less skilled players can instantly warp to their partner or aid in combat. Knack also gains a couple friendly fire based attacks, that make the usual annoyances of friendly fire an amusing element. Be it launching your buddy at the enemy or just spraying relics at foes.
Knack 2 isn’t perfect, though it’s basically everything the original should’ve been. The story might not stand out or do anything unique, but this doesn’t stop it from being fun. Especially the QTEs where Knack swaps between sizes and skills to defeat foes in style. All this comes together with a fun combat system, that might be, depending on your skill, held back by difficulty, making for a fun adventure. The ability to transverse rough platforming sections or simply avoid them is nice, as are the co-op elements. So, unless you’re looking for something a bit closer to Ratchet and Clank, Knack 2 does a good job of being family friendly and challenging.
[Editor’s Note: Knack 2 was reviewed on PS4 platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]