The sequel you never asked for — for the game you never asked for — is here. Say hello to Knack 2.
Like the original, Knack 2 is cute, inoffensive, but ultimately safe and, therefore, dull. At its best, it serves as a great tech demo for the power of the PS4; the titular hero is a being made up of fragments. He shrinks and grows as additional particles are removed or added. During chaotic periods, there are hundreds of unique objects bouncing around landscapes and enemies on-screen; each reacts with proper physical responses and every single piece moves as smooth as silk. Though as a product of PS4 Chief Architect, Mark Cerny, you should expect as much.
Unlike Knack, this sequel has substance. Rather than bounding through a level as a large behemoth or cutesy little (failed) mascot, Knack can now shrink and grow at the press of a button. This simple change adds a lot — puzzles now involve shrinking or growing to succeed, pull levels or push buttons, or simply to find hidden objects scattered in (highly detailed, colourful) worlds. In-world traps like eye-level arrow bombs can also easily be avoided by shrinking below their reach.
The emphasis on Knack’s sizing also adds to combat. As the transition is quite fluid, you’ll be able to shrink to avoid attacks and then grow to take to baddies in a style befitting The Incredible Hulk. While the game is clearly meant for children, those playing on higher difficulties will need to add that set of tricks to their repertoire. So too will players need to study opponents to figure out when to dodge, parry and eventually attack.
A new skill tree provides Knack with more than a couple moves, offering variety in combat that simply wasn’t seen in the original. In addition to standard blows, our hero can now perform proper combos, use special weapons and integrate a super-move that renders him briefly invulnerable. Eliminating opponents and destructibles in the environment leads to more fragments (so, more Knack), valuable XP and shield power.
Platforming was a major — almost whole — part of the original and again returns in Knack 2, but the character’s ability to shrink and grow makes the affair far more enjoyable. Checkpoints are a little more generous than in the past, so players can look before they leap and not feel too put out if they fail. A co-op option allows for two players to team up and wreak havoc and is as fun as your preferred partner of choice will allow.
While Knack 2 is a vast improvement over the original PS4 launch title, it’s ultimately soulless. Shrink, grow, leap, punch, (quicktime event), repeat. While efforts have been made to reduce the repetitive nature of the title, it’s not wholly effective — you’ll see the same small Knack shrug time after time when going down a small tunnel only to see it suddenly close off behind him, temporarily limiting your ability to grow large again.
The ultimate problem with Knack 2 is Knack himself — he suffers from an identity crisis. It’s hard to build a proper personality into a character who acts like a two-year-old when small and like an over-confident version of The Fantastic Four’s Thing when large. He’s certainly no Jak, Daxter, Ratchet, Clank, Nathan or Chloe. Accompanying characters are equally as bland, looking like Pixar movie outcasts and firing off generic lines as frequently as possible.
It’s hard to deny that Knack 2 looks beautiful and demonstrates that lessons have been learned since the debut of the PS4, but you’ll walk away from a game session feeling that nothing was memorable. Despite its shine, Knack 2 is bland — a well-polished bit of blandness, mind you — but one you could easily skip over.
Knack 2 was reviewed using a promotional code on PS4, as provided by the publisher. Click here to learn more about Stevivor’s scoring scale.