Knack 2 – game review.
The announcement of Knack 2 at PlayStation Experience 2016 was perhaps an even greater surprise than the release of The Last of Us sequel at the same conference. Because has anyone thought that Shu Yoshida would give consent to the game, the previous edition of which brought Sony so much negative PR?
Meanwhile, less than three years after the release of the controversial “starter” on PlayStation 4, Knack’s full-fledged continuation landed on store shelves. It is worth recalling here that the original made its debut in November 2013 and sold very well, but the reviewers did not make a positive impression, as evidenced by the average rating of 54% according to Metacritic. The production of Japan Studio, led by the legendary Mark Cerny (Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon), collected a solid spanking, incl. for simple and repetitive gameplay, average graphics and a script written on your knee. So there was a lot to improve, but let’s start with the basics, i.e. with the genre that Knack 2 represents.
God of War for the little ones
Both the original and the “two” industry media refer to as a 3D platformer, while Knack II is not a pure platformer! Comparing this item to such classics as the three-dimensional versions of Super Mario, Banjo-Kazooie or Jak & Daxter is a big mistake. The Japanese production is an action adventure game, filled with combat, puzzles, platform elements and QTE sequences, fully inspired by the convention of … God of War. As in the adventures of Kratos, the gameplay is built around the unique skills of the main character, and the activities we undertake most often are fighting, jumping and solving simple logical puzzles, with a few sections developed on slightly different principles. The end result is difficult to compare with similar titles, because there are simply no such titles on the modern market. However, what is most important in all of this, Knack 2 is a game better than the original in every respect, dedicated to experienced players, children and entire families. “Our next game is for everyone” – as you can see Shuhei Yoshida did not lie when he announced the “two” at Sony’s December event. Don’t get me wrong, however – the continuation of the adventures of the friendly creature has no chance in competing for industry awards for 2017, it will not break sales records, no level of the game is at an outstanding level, and Knack himself is rather poor material for a mascot. Nevertheless, the manufacturer managed to deliver a solid production, for which he wanted 2/3 of the price of an average novelty. Considering the quality and content of the publishing house, the offer is as honest as possible.
And who or what is Knack anyway? It is an inconspicuous, heroic, superhuman, and at the same time eloquent creature, whose body is made of relics – ancient, geometric objects with mysterious power, which makes them also an excellent, inexhaustible source of energy that humanity has learned to use successfully . Not much time has passed since the victory over Gundahar and saving the world from the Goblin invasion, but a new threat looms on the horizon. This time mankind wants to subdue the Higher Goblins, an ancient race of great inventors who oppressed the descendants of Adam and Eve centuries ago. A young man named Lucas, his uncle, and the beautiful Ava set out on a journey to discover the cause of their aggression. The story begins with an army of robots attacking the city of Newheaven, and then we go back in time a few weeks earlier to find out how it happened. The sequel’s script is no longer the responsibility of Mark Cerny, but also Marianne Krawczyk, an employee of Santa Monica Studio, who has, among others, British Film Academy Award for the script for God of War II. Knack’s new adventure doesn’t take off to Pixar’s greatest achievements in terms of script quality and presentation, but overall we got a well-written, engaging story of friendship, courage and betrayal that is followed like a good animated series. And it’s quite a series, as it takes at least thirteen to fourteen hours to complete the plot on the standard challenge level. As for modern standards and not only – the result is very satisfactory.
The game is divided into fifteen chapters, each of which takes place in a stylistically different location. The city of the future, devastated by robots, a monk’s village, snow-capped mountains, jungle, forests, mines, ancient fortresses – there is no lack of diversity. What all the locations have in common is the corridor structure, which sometimes allows you to jump to the side to find the collectible, as well as the “irregularity” dictated by the gameplay convention. Practically in each level, there are alternating places where the game tests our dexterity in platform sections, checks the player’s perceptiveness on the occasion of puzzles, but most often he directs the hero to kill-rooms, where we have to fight a group of enemies. The individual elements of the game were done well, although it cannot be denied that they were created on the gameplay foundations of the “one”. The combat system has been greatly developed. In addition to the basic blows, i.e. punches, kicking, falling to the stomach or “whip”, Knack learned to use a boomerang, a powerful hook, shower his adversaries with a barrage of blows and conclude a series of hits with a shock wave. In the moments envisaged by the authors, the character can reach a state of fury, destroying a huge crystal, and then crushing enemies in many ways. Sometimes fragments of metal or ice join the protagonist’s skeleton, enriching the repertoire of attacks, as well as giving new possibilities when solving puzzles (eg by allowing them to create an ice or metal “clone”). The platform aspect was expanded, bringing the game closer to genre standards (solid jump mechanics, many types of platforms and obstacles). There are definitely more three-dimensional jumping and simple puzzles than before, they are also appropriately diverse.
Regardless of what action you perform, the most important aspect of the mechanics is Knack’s ability to divide his body into hundreds of small relics and rebuild it back in no time (R1 button). And although after three chapters we notice that this scheme will apply until the end of the game (large seat – large Knack, narrow passages – small Knack), there is no question of boredom, because the developer has made a lot of effort to diversify the fun. In specific moments, which would be cutscenes in another game, we take part in the spectacular Quick Time Events festival, our character sometimes sits at the helm of a tank, a huge combat mech or a cannon, several simple stealth sequences, as well as four or five battles with bosses have been developed. We can strengthen all skills in four categories using the crystals obtained along the way, create gadgets from hidden parts (e.g. a device that changes the excess crystal that creates a shield into currency or a scanner showing the health level of adversaries) and create an alternative Knack (e.g. very fast, made of blue crystal). For loners, apart from the fleshy campaign and the possibility of visiting previously completed chapters from the world map, time trials and the Colosseum await, however, the “two” spreads their wings primarily in the two-player mode, on the couch and online. In the duo, the more so because even on the standard difficulty level, the opponents do not fall like flies, in addition, a few units use mean tactics, jumping away after dealing high damage, which makes it difficult to counter. As for the felers, I would first of all point to the inability to manipulate the camera (dodges were assigned to the right analog, like in GoW), so the virtual lens does not always work as it should.
Knack 2 – it’s happening!
The sequel to Knack is not the prettiest game of the year or even of the month, but it would be an exaggeration to call the “two” game an ugly game. The game works in high definition, does not threaten with aliasing, the characters are well animated (especially the spectacularly disintegrating title creature), the “soft” lighting and pleasant colors also add their own five cents. I have reservations about the artistic side, because the appearance of the world and the characters that mix it seems generic, and Knack himself is neither cute nor charismatic. The game runs smoothly at thirty frames per second on the standard console model (with the option to “unlock” the framerate in the options), and on PS4 Pro it aims at 60fps. On the plus side, I also write down the music track with the orchestra and a well-made Polish language version (full dubbing).
Knack 2 became the subject of jokes right after the announcement, but the first playtests and journalists’ opinions gave us hope that we would receive a title at least decent. And Japan Studio delivered. Due to the adopted convention, mechanics and a certain level of the target group, it was impossible to jump over it, but in general, “two” is a solid, long and effective variation on God of War for younger players and their parents. So for everyone.