The original Knack was a PlayStation 4 launch title and was criticized at the time of its release for being little more than a tech demo to showcase some of the new console’s graphical capabilities. The game was quickly forgotten by the gaming community, and so the announcement of Knack 2 at last year’s PlayStation Experience caught many off-guard. Now that the sequel is finally available, we’re happy to report that fans of the original will find plenty to love, though we caution that it still has problems that keep it from reaching the same heights as classic PlayStation platformers.
While Knack 2 may not be as widely praised as the likes of Crash Bandicoot or Jak & Daxter, the game is still a significant improvement over the original. Most notably, it strikes a far better balance between brawling and platforming, with players engaging in both styles of gameplay about equally throughout the adventure. This helps the game move at a smoother pace and offer more gameplay variety than the first game, which consisted almost entirely of combat and occasionally featured some platforming sequences.
The platforming in Knack 2 is a real treat and feels like playing an old school Crash Bandicoot game. The ability to shift between Knack’s small and larger forms at will lends itself to some clever platforming challenges that should keep players on their toes.
The combat in Knack 2 is far more engaging than the repetitive fighting in the original game, with Knack having access to a slew of new abilities and a skill tree to expand his move set even further. Combat is further deepened by the new enemy types that are gradually introduced over the course of the game, all requiring different strategies to handle effectively.
Along with combat and platforming, gameplay in Knack 2 also consists of puzzle-solving, though the puzzles tend to be generic, boring tasks like pushing crates to reach higher ledges. There are a few clever puzzles that take advantage of Knack’s special abilities – like freezing switches with Ice Knack, for example – but the vast majority of puzzles in the game are tedious and seem to serve little other purposes than to artificially lengthen the experience.
While Knack 2‘s puzzles may fall flat, the combat and platforming are done well enough that most will be able to look past them. Something else that makes the puzzles a little more bearable is the co-op gameplay. In fact, many of the puzzles are made much easier when playing in co-op, and combat is made more exciting through the addition of tag team attacks. Unfortunately, there is no online matchmaking for co-op in Knack 2, so players can only enjoy this feature when playing locally on the couch.
Co-op makes Knack 2 a much more entertaining experience for multiple reasons, so it’s a shame the developers failed to include any online matchmaking capabilities. Having said that, the co-op implementation is not perfect, as the second player can’t earn trophies and the camera is sometimes pulled back too far when playing in co-op, resulting in some cheap deaths and making certain sections of the game more difficult than they would be otherwise.
For the most part, though, playing Knack 2 in co-op actually makes the game a great deal easier when the camera isn’t being a nuisance. If they die while playing in co-op, players are able to respawn as long as their partner stays alive, and this combined with forgiving checkpoints makes Knack 2 a breeze when playing with a friend. Single player, meanwhile, is much more challenging, with certain enemy encounters likely to make some players want to pull their hair out.
Thanks to the co-op, deeper combat, and bigger focus on platforming, Knack 2 is an improvement over the original game in every sense of the word, but players will feel like they’ve seen it all well before they’ve reached the end credits. There’s also not a lot of reason to go back through the game after completing the story, meaning Knack 2 has very little in the way of replay value. Besides collecting trophies, the only reason why players would want to play Knack 2 again is to find all the collectible gadget parts, but having to suffer through the game’s more tedious sections again make this an unappealing prospect, to say the least.
Knack 2‘s budget price of $39.99 somewhat makes up for its lack of replay value, but it’s hard to deny that most will play through the game once and have no desire to play it again. The game is most entertaining and least frustrating when playing in co-op, though it lacks online matchmaking options. It manages to deliver a better balance between combat and platforming but is bogged down by boring puzzles. Knack 2 is an improvement in many ways, but it’s clear that there is still room to make it even better.