Everybody knows that Knack wasn’t a great game. In fact, it was really bad in many aspects. Dull, soulless and rushed. Even worse, thanks to one very popular youtuber the game is now a meme. So virtually no one expected to see the continuation of the first game. Knack 2 was announced to surprise and laughter. But Mark Cerny is a stubborn man. He decided to make it right and to create a game worthy of his best creation – the console itself.
Ice is nice
This is not the first unexpected sequel of this year – we’ve already gotten brilliant Watch Dogs 2. I still don’t understand how Cerny got to make this game, but oh well, it is here. He promised us a much better game with every aspect of the original either improved or reinvented. He’s told us he knows all of our gripes with Knack. So, is it a decent game? A good game?
Well, it’s hard to answer that. It is a lot better in many ways, but a good game? Honestly, I don’t know. But let’s start from the beginning.
If you haven’t played the original, that’s okay. The game mentions its plot a couple of times, but you never feel like you missed something important. Long story short, Knack saved the world, but now he has to do it again. No biggie.
So, Knack. What exactly is he? Is it a robot, or an ancient sentient creature of unknown origin? Well, they don’t really tell you here. You just have to know that he’s big, strong and only he can save the world. His main power is the ability to change size – he can be either small of huge. A neat idea for a platformer. Small Knack is very cute and, unlike his other form, can’t talk. He can’t do much except squeeze through cracks and tight spots. The big Knack fights and talks a lot. Nothing good comes from his mouth, though.
Nothing good comes from anyone’s mouth, if we’re being honest. The writing is atrocious, full of clichés and dreadful one-liners. It’s been a long time since I encountered writing that bad. Sure, it is a kid’s game, but why should it be so mind-numbingly dumb? The characters are bad as well. Lucas, a boy who always follows Knack, is dull and ugly. His uncle looks like he’s here for comic relief, but he’s never funny. Other characters are forgettable.
But more about gameplay, which is the only thing that really matters in a platformer. As I mentioned, Knack can change sizes, but I wish it wasn’t so downplayed. There are areas where only small Knack can pass and there are a lot of secret places for him but other than that he’s useless. He can’t fight big enemies. There’s no real dynamic system of rapid transformation, and I wished there were. There should be more: the idea is solid and watching Knack transform is always a treat.
But the problem here is not that Knack is not fully utilized, it’s that he doesn’t function as a mascot. There are a lot of platformer mascots, but Knack is one of the dullest. You can’t draw him; you can’t describe him. There’s no charisma, no attractive personality traits. He likes his strength, but that’s all. And, what’s most important, he’s not a hero of his own game. He’s always followed by at least two people, all of whom use him as a tool. He protects them from the enemies, lifts heavy weights, scouts ahead and risks his life. People, on the other hand, do nothing. They never try to help him fight, never consider him anything but a useful contraption.
So how can I like Knack when he’s nothing more than a slave, oblivious to his role? He’s no hero – he has no free will, like a dog on a leash. Ok, I may be overthinking this obviously children’s game, but man did they get this part wrong. There’s nothing to like about Knack. And that’s why the game seems just as soulless as the first one.
The game itself is as creative as the main character. It is mainly a platformer. Its formula reminds me of latest 3D Sonic games and of Ratchet and Clank. Sonic – because of all the fighting, and Ratchet because the little robot there is used just like smaller Knack here. Platforming is fine – the controls are tight, and levels are adequate. Fighting has been vastly improved thanks to new sets of moves and a skill tree. There’s more now than a punch and a kick.
Combat mechanic is the most evolved part of the game. At first, it’s dull because the enemies are week. After a while, it gets better. Knack learns new moves, enemies change. Knack 2 requires tactics and even precision. It’s nothing amazing, but better than a lot of similar games – Sonic included. So yeah, Cerny improved this a lot. Credit is where credit’s due.
Knack can punch, kick and use the wide variety of moves. Along the way you’ll learn how to use the barrage of punches or pull enemies towards you. The fighting seldom gets hard, and even if you fail there’s no penalty. Just start again. Death is not at all scary in Knack 2: you don’t lose progress or items. There are no lives here. Even if you fall to your death, the game just restarts. Along the way you may find a device which even stops you from falling. How much easier can it get? To all veterans and grown-ups, I advise to play on higher difficulty setting, although I myself didn’t bother with it, playing as fast as I could.
Sometimes there are puzzles. Most are very simple, nothing hard really. The game always tries to hold your hand and when you are stuck asks to allow it to show you tips on how to continue. You can disable tips in the menu, but, to my disappointment, the game will always show you when to turn little. Like, why can’t I myself figure it out?
Anxious to improve the game, the developers added new forms of Knack. There are different “types” of him like metal Knack, ice Knack etc. Think Super Mario. Once again, it’s all nice and dandy, but we’ve seen this all before. The game just imitates others, trying to figure out a formula for a perfect platformer. But there’s no formula.
Being a “special” Knack makes things interesting for a while, but it gets stale. Nothing really changes safe for some perks. It would have been better if I could change forms at any time whenever I please.
The game holds your hand, shows you what to do and when. Its worlds are vast and different, but you’re always confined in tight spaces. It’s always some sort of a corridor, a path, created beforehand by the developers. But this is 2017, and I want my freedom! I want to roam these worlds, to look for secrets. Sure, not every platformer is Super Mario 64, but here I desperately needed more space. Even the camera is fixed – who does that nowadays!?
So yeah, for the most part you travel from location to location. It goes like this: open area – location with baddies – some kind of door for you to open – location for small Knack – a puzzle – open area… rinse and repeat.
That’s the formula. Is it bad? No. A lot of games are formulaic like that. Take Lego games, for example. Every one of them is similar, and yet fun. So is Knack 2 fun? Weeell… it depends on the person. I think this game is for children only. Platformer is often a hard and unforgiving genre, but this game looks like something for those who is either very young or inexperienced in gaming. Modern children are used to touchscreens, and Knack 2 might be a great game for them to start more “serious” gaming with buttons and stuff.
And while Knack 2 is still a fairly simple game, it’s not as barebones as the previous one. The developers tried to give it depth via to the skill tree. A skill tree is good way to illustrate player’s progress. And here it’s a welcome addition, although it could have been implemented so much better. Knack can learn new moves and become more and more powerful, but it’s never exciting to upgrade him. So, I become 50% more powerful? Neat. Now if you want to see the system done right, look at the recent Ratchet & Clank. Numerous weapons, all upgradable. Never boring.
Also, there are collectibles, because of course there are! Almost every game has them, and so does Knack 2. Collectibles are not only for trophies: you can use them to obtain useful gadgets. Nothing really cool, but sure, why not. For example, I managed to construct a device that transports me back after I fall. It needs recharging, though. Once again, I see how the developers wanted to make the world more interesting, and yes, partially they’ve succeeded. It’s nice to always pay attention to surroundings, looking for small holes for small Knack. A nice little addition that allows to prolong the game and make it look a bit less linear.
As with the first game, Knack 2 shines in terms of graphics. And now not only it looks great, but also supports 4K thanks to PlayStation 4 Pro. Logically enough, our main hero is the main attraction. He consists of many small details, all of which seem to live and move independently from each other. A technical marvel for some – especially when he becomes smaller and losses the majority of his body like it’s made from Legos. It looks fantastic. I just love that his “body parts” stay on the ground and even react to the outside world. Unfortunately, that’s where the marvels end.
Everything other than Knack severely lack that cool factor. Sure, different worlds look nice and detailed. The picture is always bright and sharp. But the world is… well, dead. While Knack looks great, people who follow him don’t – specially males. I don’t think that’s the engine’s fault, probably just bad design. What really grinds my gears is how everything disappears. Let me explain: when Knack “dissipates”, he leaves a pile of scrap behind, waiting to be summoned again. But when I destroy anything else like creates and boxes, they vanish instantly. It’s like we’re back in the PS One era. It really looks bad. Sure, I am nitpicking, but small details matter in a triple A title. Sometimes the game looks fantastic, but sometimes it’s like nothing really changed for the past ten years.
The plot, as I was saying, is practically nonexistent. Here we are, in the fantastical world of… I won’t know, where energy is created by ancient devices and creatures like Knack exist. But now the world is in danger, because the ancient army of goblin-made robots awakens. There’s something about the evil mad scientist/dictator named Yurick who wanted to destroy humanity. Why should I care – I don’t know. If you don’t have an interesting story – don’t tell it all! It is a videogame, not a movie! Show, don’t tell. The world can become alive with great visuals and interesting characters. You don’t need epic battles between good and evil.
Music here is adequate – but that’s about it. No memorable tunes, nothing that deserves the digital OST that comes with the game. Actors are fine, considering the material. Nothing to say here. It’s okay.
Those of you looking for a co-op game are in luck. Co-op has been improved – this is one area in which the game is better than Ratchet & Clank. A great way to play with your kid or a loved one.
So here we are. Knack 2. A game nobody expected and nobody really wanted. But it’s here, releasing on the same week as Destiny 2. The developers promised us a better game, a complete game, an experience. The Knack they wanted to make in the first place. Unfortunately, it feels like it hasn’t been created, but rather engineered into existence. Cerny can make a great machine, but a game? Well, that’s something completely different.
I don’t want to bash it, I really don’t. After all, it is not broken like Sonic Boom – there are virtually no bags. It’s is a complete game with a co-op mode and a bunch of things to do. And yet I can’t enjoy it. Partially because, I suspect, I am not its target audience. Granted, I’m not a child who knows nothing about competent storytelling or old clichés, but that doesn’t mean that the game can’t be fun for anyone. Think Mario – when has ever these games been boring or silly? There’s no dull story there, because there’s no story at all. And that is fine. Can’t make it good – don’t make it at all.
Knack 2 is an acceptable platformer, great for younger audiences. It looks fine, there’s no doubt. It plays nice thanks to a decent combat mechanic and precise platforming. But it’s still nowhere near as good as the greats like Ratchet & Clank, Crash Bandicoot or the good ol’ Mario. A fine game, but utterly forgettable.