Before I delve into my thoughts on Knack II, I want to make it clear that I haven’t played the predecessor. Therefore, I don’t have the background to say how much has improved (though the general consensus seems to be “a lot”). My thoughts are based solely on the experience of this title on its own.
Knack was a Playstation 4 launch title that was met with very mixed reviews, so it comes as a sort of surprise that this platformer/beat ‘em up would be warranted a sequel a few years after its release. But, lo and behold, here it is in the third quarter of 2017.
Knack returns to hop, bop, and beat his way through another adventure.
The protagonist, Knack (surprise, surprise), is a creature who can expand his size by accumulating various debris scattered across his world. The game is broken up into 15 chapters which, up to the point I have played (Chapter 8), have the same structure. Knack starts out standing only a few feet tall. But, as he punches and platforms his way through forests, temples and cities, he picks up various bits and pieces that gradually increase his strength and size. By the end of the chapter, Knack is quite a force to be reckoned with and the stages tend to conclude with either a boss encounter or a series of quick time events.
The locales Knack makes his way through are vibrant and colorful, giving off that Disney/Pixar look and feel. While not the most impressive visuals on a current generation system, they get the job done and are a pleasure to take in.
Alongside the standard array of punches and kicks, Knack has the ability to shrink back down at his own leisure. This comes in handy for solving puzzles and navigating the various sets. Need to get up a high ledge with no platforms in sight? Shrink and utilize the small grooves in the walls to make your way to the top.
In addition, Knack picks up various elements throughout the adventure that grant him not only new attacks, but serve as tools for solving the later and more complex puzzles. For instance, picking up iron boosts Knack’s strength. But, it will also leave behind a statue if Knack shrinks back down- perfect for keeping a button pressed down in those puzzle scenarios.
Shrinking back to his normal size enables Knack to solve puzzles, squeeze into areas he couldn’t as a giant, and find secrets.
Most of the puzzles and platforming sequences are nothing new to the genre. If you’ve played enough platform games, these should be a breeze. The combat is where the game provides an actual challenge. Knack can be taken down in only a few blows (even when he’s larger), so learning how to combine Knack’s assortment of punches and kicks along with blocking and parrying is important. Combat does become easier over time as Knack learns new abilities (such as a power strike that’ll strip monsters of any armor they might be carrying, and a hook shot that will reel in adversaries outside of Knack’s reach), but still proves to make up the bulk of Knack II’s difficult moments.
Knack II’s puzzles and platforming are a cake-walk for fans of the genre. The game tests players most with its combat sequences. Prioritizing enemies and knowing when to fall back to let Knack’s energy replenish is crucial…especially since he can be taken down quickly.
Roughly halfway through the game, I am enjoying this one in short bursts. I feel what this one’s sorely lacking in is variety. Knack II manages to get the basics down, and the controls feel just right in both the platforming and combat departments. Growing the character to take on massive robots and shrinking down to solve puzzles and discover secret chests is enjoyable. However, I can’t help but feel that I’ve played this game before under different names and skins. There was absolutely no break in the structure beyond occasionally manning a turret or hopping into a tank several hours in. Jump around, beat up a bunch of goons, fight a boss, do a couple of quick time events…rinse and repeat in a new location.
While there are very few breaks in the punching-and-platforming structure, there is one section later on in which Knack hops into a tank. This puts the gameplay into the first person perspective and is quite amusing. Too bad it only lasted for about five minutes.
Knack II is a competent entry into the genre, with some fairly clever moments. That said, it’s not something that I can see making a big splash or being on any Top 10 lists any time soon. It is best served to those who love light-hearted platformers and brawlers and would make an excellent title for those who normally don’t play this kind of game but want to have an experience that won’t push them to the limit in the way many other games in this category would.