January 28, 2019 at 2:31 AM #915
Rating: 3.5 – Good
Knack is back, but that doesn’t change a lot.
Knack on PS4 was an oddball game to me. I didn’t get it until late 2016, but it felt stocked. I dropped it between chapters constantly because it was so boring and repetitive.
Knack 2, Mark Cerny’s next big project, came out of the blue even though it really shouldn’t exist, as the first game was not well received at all, or sold that much. Things seem bigger, but that can’t always mean better.
First, since it remains the same basically, I want to start with the graphics. Knack 1 was good for PS4 launch standards, which fit it well. This, four years later, is kind of the same deal but with better lighting, which seems lazy.
But to give the game the best credit I can, it is definitely the gameplay. The first game barely added anything outside the standard moveset for Knack, but he’s got a lot more moves this time.
He starts out with the regular punching, but also has kicking and blocking. Kicking I never found too useful, but blocking can save you from a devastating blow or from being knocked far from the enemy. And as you go along, Knack learns a lot more than that, through the story and through a new Skill system.
Story wise, Knack gets moves that can help him either help progress through the environment, or moves to get past enemy tactics like shields, and they all serve great use throughout.
The Skills trump them though. When you get more of this blue stuff called Relic Energy, you can start using it to power up moves to make them faster or more powerful, or new moves altogether, like the fantastic Body Slam and Multipunch.
And the transformations Knack gets when interacting with different materials such as Ice and Metal, also were given great improvements. Aside from Stealth Knack, who is the same as before in that his small variant can bypass lasers and the like, all the transformations have unique movesets and abilities that work in combat and out.
These additions make combat a lot more fun and varied, keeping things fresh for the whole game. Even in the final chapters you still get new stuff, and Knack 2 deserves praise for it. It is by far the best thing about the game and why I beat it in just 2 days, with a playtime of 9 hours.
But fighting isn’t all Knack has. He does some platforming and puzzle solving too. Usually for the former you just do some easy jumping, some timed bits here and there, but the latter is another good part of the game.
Since Knack can now switch between his big and small forms at will, this allows the developers to have portions where you will have to use your large form for fighting, and then using the small form to jump on tiny ledges. It never gets truly brainteasing, but I got stuck on some of the puzzles for a good three minutes. Compared to Knack however, it remains an improvement.
With small Knack, you can also find Hidden Treasure, which can grant you new abilities if you find enough parts. These can range from making Sunstones explode when you break them, to teleporting to safe ground when you fall down to a deadzone. These are useful, but not required at all really. They’re randomized for everyone though, so you can never know what you may get.
Though, if you expect combat to be much harder, I’m sorry to say it isn’t. I played on Normal difficulty and it was a stroll. Your deaths will come from screw-ups on platforming segments and not knowing enemy attacking patterns, or the game throwing too many powerful enemies at you all at once. And since you stop attacking if one attack connects with you, the latter are especially cheap. But once you know what to do, it becomes a breeze. Maybe the harder difficulties offer more, but seeing as this game has generous checkpoints with no lives, I sincerely doubt it.
But there IS also Sunstone Crystals, sometimes appearing during tough enemy gauntlets. These make Knack invincible, and… Nothing else. You do gain one supermove to use while invincible, the Crystal Blades, but I have absolutely nothing outside that, and I have beaten the game. Considering there were three supemoves in Knack, this is a downgrade to me.
What’s also a downgrade? The story. Knack didn’t really have a good story either, but…
I know Mark Cerny wanted to try and tell something good here, but this is just a Saturday Morning Cartoon plot, except now everyone takes it way too seriously. You usually have these sequences in the middle of chapters with this dramatic music playing as the characters look on with despair, talking with such monotone voices that would make robots feel offended.
Not helping is these characters are not interesting. They do not go outside where you expect them to, and are as flat as cardboard. And in some cases, the characters barely get any screen-time, such as The Doctor, who was the big character of last game’s story but gets like ten lines here.
It reeks of first draft. If I had to also bet, writing just doesn’t feel like Cerny’s thing. It almost feels like every time he tries to make a big narrative it flops right on his face.
It is a kid’s game, I know. That doesn’t excuse sloppy writing, as other "kid’s games" have given better plots than these. If they had played this more straight and like a joke instead of wanting me to take it super seriously, I would probably like it a lot more.
Soundtrack is also about on par with last time. It isn’t bad, it is a very nice orchestra from Anthony Willis, but nothing sticks out. Works for in-game, but when I’m not listening to it, I’m thinking much more of other soundtracks instead. It is very an "in the moment", thing.
And of course, the game supports Boost Mode, so if you want a better performance and all that, and if you own a PS4 Pro, try it. Otherwise, old PS4 systems have the option of "30 Frames Per Second" mode. It’s a performance drop, but at the benefit of a consistent framerate. But I never saw a use for it as I could just play this without on my regular PS4 perfectly fine.
There is Co-op as well. I never was able to try it, but it seems like a good time if you have a friend who wants to try the game.
Lastly, there’s some bonus content outside the main quest. If you miss treasures, you can replay any chapter in the game once you beat it, and can find them, and try and go for Knack Medals, which are level-specific challenges that look like they only are there for Trophies.
And when you beat the game, a few new modes get added such as New Game +, but those are if you really care that much to go back.
I’m very mixed on this game. The gameplay improved, the best part of Knack 2 I will keep saying… But not much else. Without something to support it, it loses value and makes other games look much more appealing. With such a bad plot, and not much changed in graphics and soundtrack, it feels like a Knack 1 Ultimate Edition than a true improvement.
It is not worth the Most Suggested Retail Price at all. If someone lends you it for free or something along those lines, yeah, it is a good game, but it severely lacks what makes a great one. Maybe as a joke gift to someone on their birthday or Christmas,
Whatever it is, keep with caution if you plan on adding Knack 2 to your PS4 library. It certainly has a knack for… Something.
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