Review – Knack II
When Knack was released it didn’t set the world on fire and neither will Knack II. That doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile. Its appeal is more limited than your mainstream AAA titles, but dismissing Knack II is a mistake. And it’s one that will see you miss out on one of the best platformers you’ll play this year.
Knack II follows a similar formula to its predecessor. Players control the titular Knack and can grow and shrink as necessary to fight, solve puzzles and explore. It’s fairly standard stuff. By the book platforming. There’s something about Knack II though that despite it being decidedly conventional it won me over.
And that is the presentation. Knack II plays like a Saturday morning cartoon you get to control. Remember waking up and tuning into DuckTales, TaleSpin, SuperTed or any of the cartoons of the early 1990’s? The ones where adventure was the name of the game and exploring strange new places happened every week?
That’s the essence of Knack II. I’m a 32-year-old man and playing Knack II, I was cross-legged on the floor excitedly playing and wondering what the next big twist would be.
I guess what I’m saying is, don’t Knack it ’til you’ve tried it…
Getting the Knack of things
Like all great cartoons, Knack II begins innocently enough. Lucas — Knack’s painfully annoying human companion — his uncle and Knack take a trip into the mountains to explore some ruins. Despite having stopped the goblin threat in the previous game, goblins still exist, though they’re more of a nuisance than anything else.
Making their way through the ruins, Lucas’ uncle (a totally radical dude who must be from California) tells the story of the Crystal War. The war saw a much more advanced Goblin civilisation nearly destroy primitive man, save for one noble warrior. Lucas being the turd that he is doesn’t pay heed to either his uncle or Knack and manages to awaken some ancient Goblin killbots.
Good job kid.
It turns out that the ancient evil that created these bots isn’t quite done with humankind. It falls to Knack to, once again, save the day.
Robots? Check. Monks? Check?
Knack II shakes up the formula by allowing players to switch between big and small versions of Knack on the fly. This small change opens a wealth of gameplay potential. Jumping puzzles now require timing not only for the jumps, but the switches between big and small. Combat is much improved too. By pressing R1 and switching to small Knack, players can avoid most attacks.
Coupled with jump kicks, flurries, spin attacks and more, Knack is a veritable powerhouse of moves. You’re not going to be seeing Ninja Gaiden levels of combat or combos, but for younger players, Knack II is a great place to start. Knack now has a skill tree too. Players will earn experience from getting kills and eventually be able to upgrade Knack’s attacks, movement and more. It brings a whole new element to the simple platforming and helps round out the package overall.
Thankfully, as the game progresses, new enemies are introduced and Knack and the player will need to learn new moves and abilities to counter them. Jump kicks will only get you so far. Towards the end of the game, combat is far more strategic then earlier levels will have led you to believe. Especially on harder difficulties.
Of all the additions made to Knack II, the best is easily couch co-op. Playing side by side with a friend while two Knack’s cause havoc on screen is much more fun than I could have imagined. It’s especially good when teaching younger players or helping them get through tricky sections. The drop-in, drop-out nature of co-op means you can grab a controller to help out through a tough section.
Knack II is a game made to be played with or in front of other people. Parents could play and let their kids watch as if it is a cartoon. Or let the kids play and help out when you need. Better still, get a mate, have a few drinks and blast through remembering both the good old days of cartoons in the morning and platformers from your childhood.
It’s far from perfect, but Knack II is an improvement in every way on Knack. It’s like all your favourite Saturday morning cartoons came to life and you get to be the star.
Knack II was reviewed on PS4 using a digital promotional copy provided to PowerUp! by Sony.
Game title: Knack II
Game description: Join Knack on a PS4 platform adventure from legendary game creator Mark Cerny.
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