When the PS4 first launched back in 2013, it was joined by a slew of interesting, new games. Among those was the exclusive Knack, which paired fun and challenging platforming with impactful combat. The game delivered a wonderful look into the unique narratives and worlds Sony would tell this generation.
Knack grew enough of a following to warrant a second installment, so Sony announced a sequel late last year. Japan Studio was back on the task, and Knack 2 was officially coming. Today, Sony is launching their newest title exclusively for PS4, and it delivers a very enjoyable experience for fans of the franchise, even despite some performance hiccups here and there.
Japan Studio takes the series forward with the same heroes as the first game. Lucas, Dr. Vargas, Ryder and others return for the sequel. As you would expect though, there are a number of new faces that join the fray like the monk leader Xander and fellow monk Ava. The game invests more into its storytelling, which make it a greater tale to follow.
Knack 2 provides several twists, albeit somewhat predictable, to help shift its story. Fans who played the first game will remember Gundahar, and he plays a role in the sequel. Japan Studio sends his pique moment to a somewhat anti-climactic end. Gamers have to take out several larger enemies in order to defeat him, a moment which hints at something greater afoot.
One of the biggest twists in Knack 2 is somewhat telegraphed by the battle with Gundahar. The “boss fight” you experience is a fairly simple one, and defeating him just doesn’t feel earned at all. This, coupled with how early the defeat comes, sends red flags into the air that someone else is behind the darkest motives of Knack 2.
Had the battle against Gundahar actually featured a more trying encounter, then perhaps things would’ve felt more significant. I’m a bit surprised by how he didn’t have a greater force to fight Knack with, particularly given the history the two had since the first game.
Combat is a very enjoyable part of the gameplay, as it does become embellished as you progress. New moves and combinations are introduced into Knack’s arsenal as you improve him. This is done by collecting Relic Energy. In order to gain a single upgrade point, gamers must gain enough energy to lap the energy circle four times.
New moves players will find are quite enjoyable and do a nice job of enhancing combat. It was gratifying to see how grabbing opponents made any other attack move even more entertaining to execute. The combinations you can come up with make for an extremely fun combat experience. Plus, the invincible crystal that periodically appears creates dominating moments too.
I will say that the progression system feels a bit too restrictive. Gamers are given four different areas where they can upgrade Knack’s abilities. However, you can only upgrade one area at a time before moving onto the next one. This completely eliminates player choice, and makes me wonder why there is a skill tree to begin with.
Personally, when a skill tree is present in a game, it’s because developers want players to choose which areas they want to accentuate first. This is part of defining your own playstyle as a player, and it also helps you create a unique experience. Being able to jump from any one of the four skill trees would have made progression more open for player choice.
Unfortunately, you will have to experience the same restricted, forced progression as everyone else due to Japan Studio ripping choice away from the player. This is a design system I was surprised to see, particularly with how open most games are when it comes to upgrading characters.
All of this said, combat is a very rewarding with enemies being more varied up in Knack 2 than in the first game. Enemies range from robots to goblins to spiders and more. They all possess quite a number of different moves and attacks, which help keep the experience fresh. Tough platforming is sometimes tossed in with the game’s combat, providing even more exciting gameplay.
Platforming is one of the biggest pillars of the Knack series, and Sony doubles down on it in Knack 2. With platforming being a significant means of traversal, Japan Studio provides great challenges. Gamers will constantly have to think about how to use their environment as well as Knack’s abilities.
Whether you need to downsize and become small Knack or you need to use your elemental effects, Japan Studio keeps you on your toes. I really enjoy this as it keeps the experience fresh. Platforming challenges in Knack 2 are extremely rewarding and satisfy in a big way.
Players will also find plenty of secrets if they look close enough. Collectibles can build effective gadgets that give Knack in-game perks or bonuses. Speaking of gadgets, there is one I liked the most. It grants players additional Relic Energy when they have their gold crystal meter fully charged. This is a great way to boost progression and earn new skills faster.
Finally, Knack 2‘s entertaining gameplay receives an additional boost thanks to its local co-op. Gamers can play with another friend in co-op, which makes for an even greater experience. With how progression and the gold crystal meter are structured, co-op makes for a somewhat competitive playthrough. Gamers will enjoy how it enhances gameplay, and provides a new way to see the game.
Visually, Knack 2 is beautiful with a diverse array of settings for gamers to become immersed in. Its color palate blends excellently well with the narrative. I really enjoy the look of this series, as it is one not seen too often in games these days. It’s refreshing to see a more animated look compared to the frequent, ultra-realistic look.
Gamers may notice frame rate drops here and there. However, those occurred mostly during transitions rather than during gameplay, combat or cutscenes. Additionally, there is one audio bug that disrupted the immersion a bit. Several times during a cutscene, the voiceover from characters would be completely absent.
I could not hear what was being said by the characters in the scene. While a simple press of the pause menu and then quickly resuming temporarily fixed the issue, it continued for the duration of the cutscene. I only experienced this a few times, but it is worth noting.
Sony stood up for Knack and Japan Studio when they decided to greenlight a sequel. This new experience showcases so much of what is making this series a fun, necessary part of PS4’s portfolio. Despite some technical and design hiccups here and there, Knack 2 is an exceptionally entertaining experience gamers will enjoy.
Its great value of $39.99 shows what Sony learned from The Order: 1886‘s price controversy. The value present in Knack 2 surpasses its tag, and provides gamers with a number of excellent ways to experience it. Stick around here at We Write Things for more on Knack. Sony Interactive Entertainment provided We Write Things with a PS4 copy of Knack 2 for the purposes of this review.