KNACK IS BACK, BAYBEE!! AIN’T THAT WHACK! AHHHHHHHH!!!
Ok, now that is out of my system, let’s travel back for a minute. The year is 2013. The PS4 has just launched. Available titles are.. a bit lacking. Enter Knack. A game aimed more at family gaming that featured a cute mascot-ish character that could size-up and size-down depending on the situation. Plus hey! It had co-op! Oh! Don’t forget the platforming and combat. Then throw in that the game was from Sony Japan and Mark Cerny, the main architect behind the PS4. What could go wrong??
Well, platforming wasn’t all that great. Combat was limited to three punches and a kick. The co-op felt severely tacked on to the point that the second player could only take a hit or two before dying. Speaking of dying, for a ‘family’ game, the difficulty sure would spike in many situations, even on the easier difficulties. I apologize if it seems like I’m slamming the game, because we beat it and have some fun memories with it. My Son loves the original game. As much fun (and aggravation) that we had, there was clearly room for improvement in almost every aspect.
Fast forward to now. I have some fantastic news for you. 2017 has been blessed with so many GOTY candidates that it’s hard to remember them all. Horizon Zero Dawn, Persona 5, Breath of the Wild, Nioh, NieR: Automata, and many more. You’re probably thinking “Wow! Knack 2 is game of the year material?!”. Bruh. No. It is, however, a substantial improvement over the original in almost every shape and form. Perfection? No way. But they took the foundation and crafted a fine manor for gamers to visit. Read my review to see why you should join the Knack movement!
Knack 2 starts with a later chapter of the game, then quickly shoots us to the beginning to tell us what the heck is going on. This is one of the first major improvements of Knack II. The storytelling! Never did I think I would actually care about what was going on, because the story actually has some depth to it. Sure, the main antagonist’s cliched goal is to destroy the world, but the reason ties into the overall lore of the series. The storyline isn’t going to win any awards but the team did a good job with drawing you in to help advance the story so you want to see what happens next.
One thing that kinda surprised me is how the game is geared at gamers of of all ages, the story can be a bit dark at times. This manages to offer all gamers something to enjoy. It’s a bit more serious than what the little ones might expect, yet serious enough for older gamers to take interest in it. Dialogue is still corny at times (“Ice is Nice!”..really?) but I didn’t go into the game expecting The Last of Us levels of script writing.
While the storytelling and the storyline are greatly improved, the combat mechanics are some the biggest upgrades of the entire game. The First game’s combat could be so irritating at times because you never felt truly powerful unless you were the size of a 3-story building! Stupid bug enemies would have your number and combat ultimately felt lacking overall. Look, when the game makes fun of itself for Knack’s move list from the first game, you know it needed improvement. Your arsenal was literally 3 punches and kick. WELL THANKS BE TO KNACK! You’ll be happy to know that Knack now has the ability to learn many new moves thanks to ‘relic energy’. You gain relic energy from beating enemies and opening random chest throughout the game. This energy builds up so that you may UPGRADE your abilities via a rather large SKILL TREE! Yes! There is an actual skill tree in the game. By gawd, there is depth to the combat! Knack will become an uppercutting, round house kickin’, big foot smashin’, E. Honda one hundred hand smackin’, Goblin arse kicker RELIC MACHINE! Of course, you don’t learn some abilities until later in the game, because if you didn’t, Knack would be the ultimate hero by Chapter 8. Also, if you think you’re going to unlock all the abilities in one play-through, think again. If you want the Ultimate Knack, you’re going to have to finish the game a second time to obtain his true powers.
There is also a variety with the combat. At one point you’ll control a tank, first-person style. You’ll get some badass sunstone swords that’ll have you feeling like the Knack of War as you slice and dice your enemies to their death. There’s is also a couple of other surprises, but I won’t spoil them for you. I’ll just say this. The development team did their homework with past Sony exclusives, as you’ll see their influences at certain points in the game. To be honest, combat is damn fun in this game. Like I mentioned earlier, combat was a chore in the original and at times I dreaded it. I’m glad the team took the proper time to focus on it and make it that much better.
Another part of the gameplay that is now enjoyable in Knack II is the platforming. A warning : You better have great eye to hand coordination at times, because this game will test your platforming prowess. While it doesn’t reach levels of Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy platforming pains, there will be segments that might aggravate you and heck, that’s not really a bad thing. The first game did such a ho-hum job with it that the challenge is welcomed here. On another note, the platforming scales to your the chosen difficulty. Let’s say your Lil’ Brah is wanting to play. You choose easy for them and the game will manipulate certain areas to make it more enjoyable for their level of gaming. Love that little touch.
Puzzles now have better depth to them. Nothing that’s going to rattle your brain, but there’s a couple that might make take you a second to figure out. They also make better use of Knack’s ability to size-up and size-down. If you do get stuck, there’s a handy hint mode for younger games who might get stuck. Don’t ask me how I know because I’m not telling to tell you which puzzle I was stuck on that the feature popped up and made me feel dumb.
There is one more thing gameplay gets right that was mediocre in the original game: the co-op mode. Brah. Let’s be honest with ourselves. In the original game the second player was a robot version of Knack. Who could take 2 or 3 hits and boom. Dead. Yes. There was a co-op mode, it however felt last minute and something that was tacked-on so they could say it was part of the package. Not so with Knack 2!!! I’ll go as far as to say that playing Knack 2 in co-op mode is the best way to play, as the game is way more enjoyable with a buddy helping tagging along. You both have your own full health bar. You both can kick tons o’ ass. Plus you get to do snazzy co-op Moves! For instance, let’s say Player 1 is standing behind Player 2, he does the E. Honda punches I mentioned earlier, this will result in relic shards flying out at your enemies. Or perhaps you do a charged punch, this will send the other player shooting across the screen like a friggin’ arrow. They were more serious about co-op this time and it makes me happy to see developers remember to give couch co-op some loving! If you have some friends you trust or a younger gamer in the family, I implore you to play some of this game in co-op mode. It is one of the biggest highlights for me in Knack 2.
Co-op also proves how sweet the graphic’s engine is! Even when you have all the pieces of Knack flying around, the FPS stays solid and performance really ever lags. The original Knack had an unlocked FPS cap and during heavy times, would take a dive. Not this time around. If you want to make things easier on you, the game features a 30FPS lock to keep things rocking smoothly. On the PS4 Pro, which I played on, you can either go High FPS mode or 4K mode (which is achieved by checkerboard rendering), either way, the game runs like a dream on the PS4 Pro. Knack 2 features some of the best PS4 Pro performance around, so if you’re looking to show off the McBeefStation Pro to your friends, you might be surprised that Knack 2 is a solid offering to do so with. Colors really pop-out at you plus the lush, detailed backgrounds from the first game return and only look better this time around. Knack 2 does a great job of showcasing with the PS4 can do.
It took me around 12 hours to finish the game, and upon doing so you’ll the time attack mode and the coliseum mode. Both modes are pretty basic. Time attack has you racing against the clock to get to the end of the stage as fast as you can. Coliseum returns from the first game as you battle against waves of enemies. Both modes allow co-op mode and add to the package. It’ll take you about 20 hours or so if you want to platinum the game. Not bad for the games asking price of $39.99!
You might be wondering when I’m going to talk negatively about the game. I can’t. This is Knack 2. AKA PERFECTION! Nah, I’m playing. The game is far from perfect, Brah. As great as the game is and with all the improvements that were made, the game doesn’t stroll far from the original formula. Sure, they’ve mixed in some different you journey through pretty straight-forward linear stages, with secret items riddled here and there. Some cool new moments sprinkled throughout that do make the game more enjoyable but nothing that’s going to blow your mind. There is also moments when the camera isn’t your friend. The game has a cinematic camera, intended to give you the best view possible. Only problem is that it doesn’t always do the best job following you around, and when the action gets too intense, you could get knocked off screen, out of the action, and to your death. One other thing some gamers might not enjoy. The game uses QTE actions in almost every stage, which didn’t bother me, but if the Marvel’s Spider-Man E3 2017 trailer reaction was any indication, some of you might be triggered over this. Doesn’t ruin the game by any means, I just know how some gamers view QTEs as the bane of gaming’s existence.
When it comes down to it, Knack 2 didn’t aim to change the action-adventure platforming genre, nor is it perfect, but it did do a damn good job of improving upon what the series has to offer. Some gamers will forever view the Knack as joke, but Knack 2 takes all those jokes and polishes them to a great degree. If you enjoyed the original game, you’re going to have a blast with this one. I would recommend it to gamers of all ages and skill levels. Combat is fun, the graphics shine, and co-op is an absolute blast. If you have the time and money, Knack 2 is worth it. Hope you stick around for the inevitable Knack 3!