Knack returns on PlayStation 4
Four years ago Sony Interactive gave us Knack, a brand new character and IP that helped launch the PS4. Generally launch titles are used to showcase the console’s capabilities, and Knack did just that with its eye-catching visuals. However, the game was ultimately held back by its limited gameplay and underwhelming story that fell flat for some gamers. Despite the tepid response, the franchise has been given a chance for redemption with Knack II, available now on PS4.
From the get-go you can tell Knack II goes to great lengths to improve on all its predecessor’s weak points. Knack has a much wider moveset, a fully upgradeable skill tree, and the story is actually pretty good. The game even directly addresses criticisms of the original in a funny cutscene, but I won’t spoil the surprise. Moreover the graphics, the last game’s strong suit, look tangible better this time around. All considered this is a much more competent sequel, and overall I had quite a lot of fun with it.
Platform(s): PlayStation 4
A robot invasion
If you haven’t played the original Knack there’s no need to worry. The sequel puts you straight into action against gigantic robots and the combat is simple to pick-up. Knack has punch and kick combos, a dodge move, a block, and that’s about it (at least to start.) All you really need to know about Knack himself is he’s comprised of relics, and acquiring more makes him larger.
As for why the robots are attacking, it’s best to discover the reason on your own. I will say though that you get to travel to many exotic locations, each one filled with luscious eye candy. That’s especially true for those playing on PS4 Pro, as the graphics are a crisp 3200×1800 resolution (almost 4K). There’s also a “favour performance” mode for PS4 Pro that gives you 1080p graphics and super smooth 60fps gameplay. It’s great to see Sony continue to support the Pro with enhanced versions of their new releases.
As far as the story is concerned, it’s far better than the original and introduces some interesting new characters. This includes members of a new monk group that plays a central role throughout the tale. Much of the story has a predictable outcome, but a few unexpected twists and turns will keep you guessing.
The voice acting is also good across the board, aside from (ironically) Knack who is still far too terse. Thankfully Knack’s more expressive best-friend and sidekick Lucas picks up the slack by doing most of the talking. As well, Tiny Knack appears during numerous cutscenes and these moments are still mostly quite funny.
Grow larger … or smaller
What separates Knack from other platforming heroes is his ability to grow, and grow. By acquiring relics (generally found in crates) you can enlarge him from 4′ all the way to 25′ and higher. As you get bigger your life bar will increase, so there’s a real incentive to gather those relics.
Knack can also shed his relics and shrink down to a minuscule 2-feet tall should the situation call for it. This is usually the case during platforming sections, which often have ledges too narrow for regular-sized Knack. Once you’re through the tiny platforms, a simple press of the R1 button and you’ll reform back into larger Knack. This shrink/growth mechanic is put to good use in virtually every single one of the game’s 15 chapters.
Build your skills
Knack 2 introduces a new skill tree that serves to expand our titular hero’s offense arsenal in significant ways. Knack can learn new moves like a somersault kick, boomerang, and body slam, for instance. It’s also possible improve existing attacks, such as increasing the speed of his punches/kicks, or the power of his parries. By the midway point of the game you’ll have good-sized arsenal—certainly way more than the original’s infamous “three punches and a kick.”
Over the adventure you can also discover secret techniques used when Knack breaks yellow power crystals. These include tossing out relic tornadoes, or slicing through enemies with a relic whip or sword. In this high-powered state you’ll effortlessly mow down enemies, and the visual effects are quite nice too.
The last way to power-up Knack is by finding special materials he can attach to his body. For example, busting metal objects will make the shards stick to Knack and gives him the power to conduct electricity. Likewise, smashing ice crystals lets Knack freeze objects like switches to keep them locked into place. Finally, breaking clear crystals will turn Knack see-through and enable him to bypass deadly security lasers. When you consider Knack’s skill tree, secret techniques, and transformations, the gameplay feels greatly expanded compared to the original.
Look for secrets
Knack II, like its predecessor, contains dozens of hidden rooms accessible only to Tiny Knack. As you play be on the lookout for small openings, as these could lead you down a tunnel to a treasure chest. Inside these boxes are gadget parts, or gems used to transform Knack into all-new forms when enough are collected. Some gadget power-ups you can unlock include the ability to see enemy health bars, or detect nearby secrets. As for the unlockable transformations, they can make Knack run faster, give him a teleport move, and much more.
Co-op and replayability
Knack II features seamless co-op letting a friend or family member join in at any time. The game is fairly accessible overall, so children and adults alike can have fun playing together. It’s a pretty lengthy campaign (took me 12 hours) and when you’re finished there’s still lots to do.
In addition to replaying levels to discover all secret chests, there are 100 Knack medals to collect. These are awarded for completing specific challenges, like beating a stage within a specific time limit. More end-game content includes Time Attack and Coliseum Attack modes, which test your speedrun and combat skills respectively. Considering Knack II is a lower priced game, the amount of content you receive is certainly quite good.
Knack II does what any good sequel should: builds upon its predecessor in meaningful ways. Everything has been improved, most noticeably the gameplay but also the story and graphics too. If you’re looking for a fun new PS4 platforming game, this game certainly fits the bill.
+ Beautiful graphics, especially on PS4 Pro
+ Much improved gameplay over the original
+ A nice story with twists and turns
+ Lots of collectibles and secrets
+ Seamless co-op and good amount of end-game content
– Combat can be slightly repetitive in the early going
– Solid platforming game, but few innovations
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 4/5