Knack has had a rough time of it. A family-friendly platformer released in 2013 as a launch title for the PlayStation 4, the game was largely panned for its lack of new ideas, and for being easy to the point of boredom (although our own review was one of the more generous).
The gaming community was somewhat perplexed at the announcement of its sequel, scheduled to release on September 5, 2017, again as a PS4 exclusive. We played through a level at Sony’s recent media showcase event to see whether Knack 2 can make up for its ill-received predecessor.
Knack, the game’s title character, is an anthropomorphic assemblage of ancient relics, capable of growing or shrinking in size as he absorbs or spits out more relics into his composite body. His capabilities vary with his size, being more nimble while small, and more powerful while large, forming a shield to block attacks, or throwing out flurries of punches. The player can switch between modes with a button press at any time, as the situation demands. The level we played was a mix of light platforming and brawling.
One of the first game’s most common criticisms was that, in the pursuit of making it as accessible as possible to any player, the developers expunged any challenge. We are happy to report that, playing at the second of three difficulty levels, Knack 2 does in fact feel like a real game.
Although the brawling sections in the level we played never presented any challenges, several of the platforming bits required a few attempts to perfect the timing between platforms, and through opening and closing doors. Series creator Mark Cerny has returned to lead the sequel as well. A veteran of early 2000s 3D platforming classics like Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon, Cerny brings that pedigree to bear on his newer work.
Bring a friend
We also had the chance to try some two-player co-op. A friend can seamlessly jump in and out at any point in the story. When they do, a blue clone of Knack emerges from his body with all of the same capabilities.
An added power of co-op is that either player can teleport to the other with the press of a button. This mitigated some of the challenge in the platforming sections, as only one of us needed to make it through for both of us to succeed. That will help two players at different skill levels enjoy the game together.
Much like the first game, Knack 2’s visuals look great, taking full advantage of the PS4’s powerful hardware. The characters are stylized and cartoony, but the textures and environments are realistic, presenting a bright, colorful, and inviting world. Knack himself, being composed of a variable amount of small and detailed objects, is particularly impressive, feeling almost like the great grandson of Vectorman.
3D platformers are having a moment right now, with new titles like Super Lucky’s Tale and Yooka-Laylee set alongside remasters like the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy and Ratchet & Clank. When Knack 2 arrives exclusively on PS4 on September 5, 2017, we’ll find out whether Knack will join the canon of platforming greats, or wither away in derivative obscurity.