Developer: SCE Japan
Release Date: 9/5/17
ESRB/PEGI: E/PEGI 7
MSRP: $39.99 USD
By Rick Warren / Gfn2112
Where were you when the sequel to one of the greatest games ever made was revealed? No, I'm not talking about The Last of Us. I'm obviously talking about Knack 2, the sequel focused on the most beloved character in PlayStation history. All jokes aside, the original Knack was a solid launch title that did what it set out to do. It wasn't anything outstanding, or even memorable, but it had potential. When Knack 2 was announced, I was ready to see a better game that improved on the foundation of the original. I found just that with Knack 2... but the improvements weren't as large or as numerous as I had hoped.
Minor improvements and returning problems.
Knack 2 does feature its share of improvements, even if none are particularly game-changing. A hefty skill tree is added, which adds a small feeling of progression to the game (even if the upgrades are just simple damage boosts). A new Missions system is designed to encourage replayability and offers optional tasks for each mission, but its hit-or-miss. Some of the missions are genuinely fun to do, while others deal with frustrating collectible-hunting. Overall there are more of the former than the latter, but this system ended up as a much smaller step-up than it could have been. The solid collectibles system returns from the original game, and it's one of the better use of collectibles I've seen yet. Finding the hidden chests allows players to assemble gadgets that help them in-game (like one that negates death from falls and one that helps them stun enemies). Further, the chests offer access to different versions of Knack that are extremely powerful and offer various advantages. From a Knack that could teleport to a Knack that moved fast, these versions were extremely fun to use and felt like a legitimate reward for getting all the collectibles.
Time Attacks and Coliseum Attacks return, and they're an absolute blast. These post-story trials are a great place to test out any unlocked versions of Knack, and the leaderboards for them offer a classic feeling of competition. Still, the biggest issue with these is one that returns from the first game: there aren't nearly enough of them. When I found only five time attacks and three coliseum attacks, I was legitimately disappointed. I had been enjoying them, but that enjoyment ended within thirty minutes. This is something that I'm shocked wasn't improved upon after the first game, and it stands tall as the area of the Knack games that is the least fleshed out.
A functional co-op mode has also been added for both the story and the "extra content", but its limited to couch co-op only. This was a bit sad to see, as I would have liked to play through the campaign with a friend online. While it is better than nothing and nice to see games still catering to the offline audience, I do wish Knack's co-op option was suited for online play as well.
Knack is back... but should you care?
When someone is deciding if they should get Knack 2, they should know what they're getting into. The bulk of Knack 2 is the story mode, and it manages to be both the greatest strength and the greatest weakness of the game. The story itself is better-told than the first game, but its also much more predictable. In fact, it follows the same exact beats as the first game, from the twist to the final boss. The characters are still serviceable and the writing remains, decent but the plot feels largely recycled and uninspired. The pacing was also an issue for the story mode, as there's a hefty amount of filler in the game. In the first half of Knack's adventure, there is a level in almost every chapter that could have been removed. The last half of the game moves much quicker, as the filler levels are far less common. Ultimately, this ten hour story felt three hours too long and it definitely dragged at times. The seven hours of the story that weren't filler, though? I can only describe them in one way: fun.
The majority of Knack 2 is an enjoyable experience. The puzzles are quick and simple. The game is nice to look at. There are plenty of different enemy types that make use of the game's strong, simple combat mechanics. Building on this led to one of the bigger strengths of Knack 2: the boss fights. These four fights were much more memorable than anything in the previous Knack, and they differed greatly from each other. These larger enemies provided a fair challenge on hard difficulty or higher (which I do recommend playing on if you're a skilled gamer, as normal is a bit too easy). New powers are introduced often, and they truly make Knack stronger (some are even hidden in the world, which was a great touch). While the skill tree only offered a limited sense of progression, it didn't matter too much; progression was occurring in the game itself.
Knack 2 also made great use of the oddly-controversial quick time event mechanic. These QTEs made scenes where Knack first tried a new power more interesting. The simple button prompts fit the game well. There were plenty of scenes prepared if I failed the event, something that showed the care the developers put into them. With so much fun gameplay, these entertaining QTEs were icing on the relic-covered cake.
If you're someone who enjoys platformers, or if you're looking for a fun game to gift to a younger relative, I highly recommend Knack 2. Even though it's aimed at younger audiences, it's a legitimately fun game that can be enjoyed by gamers of all ages. Don't expect too many improvements if you played the first Knack, though. Overall, Knack 2 is still just one step forward to making this character more than a joke.
FINAL SCORE: 7.5