The first Knack was the first title shown in the pre-launch period of the PlayStation 4, while the game director Mark Cerny also assumed the role of lead architect of the same console. In interviews Cerny described Knack as a small-scale project, while many expected it to be a showcase of the technical capabilities of the new hardware. But the arrival of the sequel presents an interesting opportunity for Cerny and his Studio Japan team: without the pressure of launching a system to manage, Knack 2 has given the developers time to show what kind of game they really want to offer.
A lot has changed since the first Knack was launched, among which the most notable is the introduction of the PlayStation 4 Pro (another project signed by Cerny), which offers the possibility of making a title that makes full use of the capabilities. of the enhanced console. First of all, the product is open to the user, as players have several options to enjoy the experience including two different resolutions, different frame-rate solutions and HDR support. So what does this title offer in detail on Pro?
Basically, Knack 2 on PlayStation 4 Pro opts for high-resolution mode which sees the game spin at 3200×1800 via checkerboard rendering. With checkerboarding being a crucial feature for PS4 Pro (and a focal point in Cerny’s efforts to build the console) it’s no surprise that Knack 2 hinges on this feature. While it’s not native 4K, the resulting image quality is clean and crisp, blending in well with the chosen art style.
PS4 Pro owners also have a high frame-rate mode available which reduces the resolution to 1080p to maximize performance. On paper this is a downgrade from 1800p to 1080p that doesn’t look all that appealing, but the image quality is equally satisfying thanks to the adoption of a superb temporal anti-aliasing solution. Knack 2’s performance profile varies by mode but this mode will grant you a nearly locked frame-rate at 60 frames per second, a big upgrade over the first prequel Pro patch.
And there is also no better news for Ps4 Pro owners: both modes are available depending on the type of display connected, just as they should always be. Those who still play on 1080p screens benefit from super-sampling or better performance, everyone comes out as a winner. For standard PS4 owners the render resolution is set to 1080p as you would expect, but that doesn’t imply that things are on par with PS4 Pro’s high performance mode. Shadow maps are employed for the premium model of PS4, along with changes in ambient occlusion.
Overall, however, the on-screen graphics are almost on par and the result is delightful, representing a big leap forward from the first installment of the series. There is greater variety in the gameplay to the point that the first three levels offer a unique feel as you move from one checkpoint to another. Compared to the repetitive design of the prequel, an eventuality probably dictated by the concomitant launch with the console, Knack 2 therefore represents a breath of fresh air.
It also returns full motion blur for objects, along with a large number of background polygons for each scene, lots of intricate moving parts and a good choice of camera angles that help make the gameplay great. You can say what you want about Knack but the improvements made to both the engine and the art direction are widely welcomed in this sequel.
But the most important improvement to the experience is the increase in performance. We criticized the first Knack for its unlocked frame-rate, which resulted in a very unstable gaming experience that was never rewarding. That all changed with Knack 2: First of all, the game now offers an option to lock the frame-rate to 30fps. It’s not the default option for those looking for consistency over a 40-45fps frame, but it’s a big plus.
Here’s Knack 2 running at 3200×1800 via checkerboard rendering, compared to the base PS4 version. The higher resolution allows you to notice the farther details rendered in the scene.This shot illustrates the subtle difference in shadow quality and ambient occlusion. Take a good look at the shadows and you’ll see a little more detail on PS4 Pro in both view modes.Look at the rocks on the left of the scene, ambient occlusion is employed differently between the two systems. The base PS4 features slightly darker shading along the edges.This pair of shots demonstrates the reconstruction of the temporal anti-aliasing techniques at play. Checkerboarding relies on information from the previous frame but the first shot is taken one frame after a camera change. You can see the eye-catching artifacts all along the image. The second shot is captured four frames after checkerboarding and temporal AA have fully recovered.
But if you’re playing on PS4 Pro you might not even need it. The sequel’s high frame-rate mode delivers a rock-solid nearly 60fps experience and does wonders for the game. Controls are faster and more responsive in this mode, and the game looks great during gameplay. Knack 2 offers much more platforming than the original, and the added precision afforded by the performance level is very welcome. Unlike the Pro’s nearly locked 60fps frame-rate, the base PS4 runs the title at 45fps most of the time. This is however a good improvement over the prequel which could frequently drop in the 30fps zone, while here the 40-45fps is maintained stably.
Interestingly, Knack 2 delivers on PS4 Pro’s promise of 60fps to players. Few other titles have fully succeeded (Deck 13’s The Surge was one of the few), but it’s nice to see. No doubt this is possible thanks to a performance saving technique brought into play here, half-rate physics. When large physical interactions come into play, objects tend to update at half the frame-rate, with less fluidity as the end result. It’s definitely not a big deal, but it’s an interesting way to save resources.
And so, how much better is PS4 Pro’s high-resolution mode than the base PS4’s 1080p output? The main difference obviously lies in the leap from 1080p to 1800p checherboarding on PS4 Pro, and on average the base PS4 is two to four frames per second smoother. This has no noticeable detrimental effects on gameplay though as the frame-rate is already quite unstable but gives us an idea of how the engine scales. Based on this example, you can expect a 1080p base game scaling to 1800p using checkerboarding rendering. With the 30fps frame-rate cap in play, both would be stuck at 30fps, but clearly there would be some wasted resources on the base system running at lower resolution.
In practice, the performance is exactly what we wanted from the start, and it’s great to see that the team has finally hit the target. Frame-rate critics can enjoy Knack 2 at almost frozen 60fps on PS4 Pro, while those who prefer image quality at a stable 30fps frame-rate can opt for the standard console’s 1800p or 1080p mode. . And for everyone else, there’s the unlocked frame-rate mode. Everyone is catered for here, and it’s just great.
Overall then, Knack 2 is an interesting release. It is a title that takes full advantage of virtually every feature available on the PlayStation 4 line of consoles. It offers fantastic PS4 Pro support with multiple display modes, full HDR support on all consoles, and even takes advantage of the controller’s built-in speaker. , a feature now largely out of use.
And while Digital Foundry’s main focus is on technology, we’re confident that this is a much more fun game than its predecessor. The internet has largely mocked Knack but his sequel is an improved title in all respects. The platforming is solid, the more refined combat makes use of the different dimensions of Knack and there is also a hint of puzzle solving.
It’s also worth praising the way the easy and normal difficulty levels offer different paths through each area: the more affordable level simplifies the platforming elements considerably, and is presumably meant for a younger audience. The whole package looks very good, there’s also a full two-player co-op with two Knacks, and it’s a solid title offered at a reasonable price.
If you’ve played the recently released demo, don’t hastily draw negative conclusions as Sony has probably picked the worst portion of the game to give a concrete idea. Arena battles are reduced scenarios that do not provide a very representative picture of the game. There are actually much better levels during the first section of the second chapter, for example, which would have conveyed a much better picture of the game. Summing up we can say that Knack 2, compared to its prequel, is a better game and is more graphically beautiful and with more options. Overall, Knack 2 is an enjoyable product and a really complete and interesting package.