There’s a lot to love in Knack 2. Nobody asked for it, nobody wanted it, but they’ve done some good stuff and there’s a charm here that was sorely lacking in the original; great level design, tricky puzzles, nice graphics, and a concept that almost realises its potential.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Knack 2 is a puzzle platformer made in-house by Sony, and revolves around Knack, a little relic golem who can change his mass by absorbing relics of a bygone age. This means he can change his size and shape depending on the situation, becoming big and strong to move blocks and beat on enemies, or small and nimble for clambering overledges. With this as a core mechanic, it should be easy to build and fun and engaging game around it, right?
The biggest problem with Knack 2, and the original Knack as well, I guess, is that it draws unfavourable comparisons to other, better games. I actually feel bad for the developers, who clearly put a fair amount of effort in, only to release a month after Crash Bandicoot’s remasters, when everyone who liked little orange bros jumping all over the place was pretty much satisfied. It’s a very niche market to oversaturate.
More to the actual gameplay, Knack himself handles like a traffic cone, with blockly movement, a limited movepool, and the worst dodge this side of the Alamo. The dodge in a game like this is so vital to the core gameplay that I’m baffled as to why Knack, instead of dodging the evil robot or goblin or whatever, will teleport half a foot away and still get hit by the attack because his hitbox hasn’t moved enough. Honestly, you’ll be hit while dodging more often than if you just stood still.
The dodgy dodge, combined with the low movepool, makes the start of the game a slog that no amount of actually enjoyable platforming and puzzling can conquer. Much of this is to make you feel like a boss once you unlock upgrades and new moves later, but the payoff isn’t stellar and comes way too late; I was honestly sick of it in my first two hours.
Speaking of bosses, let’s talk random difficulty spikes, because oh yeah, who doesn’t love that. So I played Knack 2 on Hard mode, because I usually find Medium too easy and wanted a bit of a challenge. Well, let me tell you, I had a challenge. While the bog-standard enemies of the main game were a cakewalk, the bosses and enclosed arena fights, usually coming just after one of Knack 2’s many, many points of no return, were approximately 79 times harder. The harder bosses weren’t the problem, rather the massive difference between them and all enemies faced up until that point. We live in a post-Dark Souls world where ‘git gud’ is the go-to, but really, a Souls game is consistent in its punishment; this surprise jump just seemed cheap and mean.
Knack 2 also has my favourite thing in video games ever, unexpected QTEs during cutscenes. That sentence alone says it all.
Don’t get me wrong though, there really is a lot of good buried under the poor. Puzzling is genuinely satisfying, and a couple of head-scratchers gave me that sweet rush of pride when I figured them out. And the levels are beautiful, with hidden areas and swappable collectables that will lead completionists to playing again for all the extra goodies.
There’s a very specific group of people who I feel will enjoy Knack 2. The first is young children who don’t know better; bright colours will distract them, they won’t notice that the plot is derivative and predictable, and the co-op is well enough done that you can put two or more younglings in front of it and really leave them to it. The second cadre is those who liked the idea of the first game and really wanted it to be better. Because in many ways that’s what Knack 2 is: a better version of the first one. I don’t think it’s enough but, if you liked Knack, I see no reason you won’t like Knack 2.
Knack has always suffered from Crash envy. It wants to be what Crash was for the PS1, what Ratchet and Clank were for PS2, what Sackboy was for PS3. But for all its efforts to be the next Crash Bandiclone, Knack 2 fails in its execution and becomes just another mediocre platformer. Since I’m not the target demographic, I’ll boost my score a bit, but I can’t in good faith recommend buying this unless you love the idea, are getting it for a child, or just want to prove me wrong.
Sony, stop trying to make Knack happen. It’s not going to happen.