Among Sony franchises over the past couple of generations of consoles, Knack is perhaps the most disapproved of. Conceived as a successor to the Activision-owned Crash Bandicoot games for PS4 that defined the early PlayStation years, this action-platformer suffered from a lack of clear direction and many unsuccessful design choices. It didn’t help that Sony decided to support Knack up as a key game for the PS4 launch in response to accusations that it has too many AAA first-person shooters. The game was released in November 2013 and caused general disappointment, and currently most PlayStation owners do not pay attention to it, preferring other platformers and action games on the market.
However, Sony and developer Japan Studio wanted to give Nek another chance. Knack 2 was announced on the PlayStation Experience in December 2016 and released on September 5, 2017, that is, at the time of writing this article, it officially turned five years old. The announcement caused mostly confusion due to the average reception of Knack 1, and the release of the game went unnoticed by some console owners. However, looking at the reviews of the two Knack games showed that something has changed between them. For those who have played both games, Knack 2 is almost universally considered better than its predecessor, and it seems that an attempt has been made to turn Knack into a memorable PlayStation franchise.
Knack 1 was forgotten
To understand what Knack 2 did right, it is necessary, unfortunately, to think about everything that Knack 1 did wrong. From the very beginning, Nek himself appears. Nek is a golem consisting of many tiny relics, and has three main forms depending on how many relics are in it at a given time. This seems like a promising idea, as Katamari Damacy is mentioned as a source of inspiration, and the design of the little Knack is attractive. Unfortunately, this is quickly giving way to visual noise, as Knack was created to show how the PS4 can display many small objects at the same time, rather than being a whole character design. To make matters worse, the player has virtually no control over the size of the Knack, which deprives the concept of any real gaming applications.
Unfortunately, this is a good way to describe Knack in general. The levels are long and repetitive with few checkpoints, and the difficulty is frustratingly high. Despite the fact that the game is positioned as a platformer in the spirit of Crash Bandicoot, jumping is so understated that instead Knack becomes like a simple beat’em-up. Most enemies have attacks that can cause a small damage with one shot, and health recovery is rare. Players can take a friend with them to simplify the task, but the second player cannot use every mechanic. All this time, the gameplay will often be interrupted by cut scenes featuring tasteless people, robots and bizarrely realized goblins. The cherry on the cake are collectible relics, which basically require getting items from online friends to unlock alternative play styles. Knack seems boring rather than ridiculously bad, which is the result of a poor understanding of what its genre identity entails.
Knack 2 was what Knack was Always supposed to Be
There was no demand for more Naka, and there were no even greater depths that he could reach. How and why Knack 2 exists is a mystery, and, generally speaking, the public had every right to dismiss it offhand. However, now that it has been around for five years and sells for just a few dollars, those looking for an old-school action platformer may want to buy it. Knack 2 implements all of its gameplay ideas better than the first Knack, even if the plot and online integration are still in disarray. It seems that Knack 2 copies God of War 1 for PS2, because now it has built-in combat options, more diverse and balanced encounters with enemies, and even extensive platforming and puzzle solving, which were often forgotten in the first game.
Knack 2 looks almost like an apology for the first game. The concept of the Nek controlling its size is finally integrated into the gameplay and allows for much greater player participation in navigating linear levels. Puzzles and vehicles dilute the action, and even a random transformation using iron or ice offers an interesting visual variety in Nek’s attacks. The skill tree keeps the action fresh even after a few hours of play, and Knack 2 demonstrates a serious attempt to emulate the ruby and ruby tropes, having a boss similar to Virgil and elite enemies imitating the techniques of Nek. There is even health recovery and a fully integrated local multiplayer mode so that the player is always the dominant force. The game is not so exceptional as to rise above 8/10 in the rating of most reviewers, but it is a huge step forward compared to the numerous ratings of Knack 1 4, 5 and 6/10.