When the original Knack launched alongside the PlayStation 4, it received mixed to negative reviews. The game was more like a tech demo to show off what Sony’s new console could do. It was difficult, featured a disjointed story, and the gameplay was mediocre at best. Fortunately, Knack 2 is better than the original in every possible way. The gameplay is deep and responsive, the story is surprisingly dark, with some cool character moments, and the game looks crisp.
The story follows Knack and friends as they are trying to stop a group of High Goblins that have come to bring destruction to the human race years after the Crystal Wars ended. The basic premise of the game is straightforward, but there are plenty of twists and turns to keep gamers glued to their seats. In fact, every time I thought Knack 2 was about to end, the story threw a curveball my way. Unlike the first installment, Knack 2 doesn’t have cheesy, eye-rolling moments. Knack and the rest of the cast aren’t so one-dimensional this time around, the stakes feel real, and there are moments when the narrative goes to darker places than the original.
From the opening moments, it’s clear that Knack 2 is far superior to its predecessor. In his first outing, Knack could only punch, dodge, ground pound, and use Sunstone abilities. In the sequel, our hero can do so much more. Knack can now kick, parry, block, and unlock a wide variety of moves (such as a grapple, and boomerang) to dispose of the goblin threat. By defeating enemies and breaking hidden chests, Knack can obtain experience points to purchase new abilities. The rather large skill tree not only strengthens existing abilities, but it also allows players to add new combos to his already expansive move-set.
The combat is surprisingly rewarding. While fights can be overwhelming at times, I never found them to be unfair. In fact, each of my deaths felt like a learning experience. Many of the enemies you’ll encounter follow a particular pattern. Learning their maneuvers is the key to success. During some of the more hectic battles, a super crystal usually appears which grants Knack a few seconds of near invincibility. In this mode, Knack can utilize powerful moves that can stop most enemies in their tracks.
Knack 2 isn’t all about the combat. There are moments of fantastic platforming. By pressing the R1 button, players can change Knack’s size. For instance, you can be jumping between platforms and the next second you’re shrinking to dodge an oncoming obstacle. Shapeshifting can also be a good evasive maneuver in combat. While the game often highlights combat, fans of the platforming genre will find a lot to appreciate.
One of the biggest praises I can give Knack 2 is that there is a lot of variety to the gameplay. While I won’t mention specific sections because of spoilers, there are a few set pieces that introduce the player to unique (and unexpected gameplay elements). In fact, these sections were some of my favorites in the entire campaign.
After completing Knack 2, new modes are available that add to the longevity of the title. There’s also a cooperative mode that I, unfortunately, did not get a chance to try out. For those that choose to play with a friend, Knack 2 features drop-in, drop-out multiplayer.
Knack 2 features crisp 4K visuals and a steady framerate. Players may choose 4K visuals or 1080p/60FPS. Â I used a PlayStation 4 Pro and while I played with higher visual fidelity, I didn’t notice a single instance of the frame rate dropping. It played and looked wonderful. The audio aspects were solid as well. The voice acting has improved over the first game, and the score has moments of greatness. The orchestral music is stunning at times, and the sound effects from the combat are great to hear.
Throughout the 10 hours it took me to complete Knack 2, there were only two problems that bothered me. The developers relied heavily on quick time events during some crucial moments. While they didn’t make these scenes any less epic, having QTEs took me out of the experience at times. Another issue I had were boss fights. While these were few and far between, they weren’t exciting or challenging. The concept of each boss battle was cool, but the execution could have been handled much better.
Knack 2 is the type of game that completely caught me off-guard. I wasn’t a huge fan of the original game but found myself being blown away by how much of an improvement the sequel is. Not only is the story entertaining, but the characters are more likeable, the graphics are excellent, the combat is immersive, the platforming is great, and the variety is fantastic. Knack 2 is the sequel that shouldn’t exist, but I’m glad it does. I never thought that this could potentially be a huge franchise, but after playing through Knack 2, I wouldn’t mind experiencing more adventures in this universe for years to come.