Knack 2 Isn’t A Masterpiece, But It Definitely Deserved Better

Knack 2 is a good game. There, I said it. It’s not great, but compared to its mediocre predecessor, it feels like a fully fledged platformer with enough creative ideas to cement itself in my memory. Sadly, before it was even announced, the possibility of a Knack sequel had already become a bit of an internet meme. When the reveal trailer reared its head, people laughed. I was part of the crowd poking fun at Knack 2, curious why Sony would make a sequel to such a so-so launch title. More jabes were made leading up to its release, right up until I found it in my lap as a review assignment. To my surprise, it wasn’t bad at all.

It takes the original idea of Knack being an ever-changing collection of relics who can change sizes at will and hurls it into a variety of fascinating environments. Battles are larger, puzzles are more intricate, and the pacing of levels is no longer akin to a snail oozing around a racetrack. It’s a much more palatable experience, although a number of people ignored it when it originally launched – .they should give it a second chance now. I’m not comparing it to Mario’s finest hour or anything, but as far as responsive platformers go, it’s a winner.

Japan Studio christens the game with an almost Studio Ghibli-esque aesthetic, exaggerating features of characters while injecting environments with technology that is similar to our own, but just whimsical enough to feel otherworldly. Characters are charming and likeable, even if they fumble into narrative cliche one too many times. Knack still sounds like Ron Perlham transformed into a box of lego, but his delivery is sincere enough that he becomes oddly lovable after a handful of levels. He’s still a bit weird, though.

The story is little more than serviceable, acting as a playful jaunt of heroism that simply exists to give our lead character purpose for another adventure. I happily went along, cheering in relief when the campaign opened amidst a metropolis being attacked by goblins. Unlike the first game, you don’t spend over an hour in a lab being stared at by Elon Musk and his mates. People know who Knack is, and he’s here to save the day.

You start off as a giant, relishing in the height of Knack’s power as you smash through city streets and knock countless goblins unconscious. It’s a power fantasy that cements you as a formidable hero, teaching you what Knack is capable of before shrinking both his size and ego down to something much more manageable. It’s a cracking opener, and leads into a far more sombre forest stage filled with puzzles and platforms to conquer.

The moment-to-moment action isn’t anything special, but it’s responsive and engaging enough in its variety to keep you invested. Knack’s biggest problem has always been its central character, but part of me enjoys a mascot platformer where the hero isn’t an adorable furry creature or a short Italian plumber. It’s a fun change of pace, and shows that anyone can be the hero if they really want to be.

Knack 2’s campaign continues to dish out variety as you progress, offering fun, toybox-like boss battles and imaginative ventures through all manner of locales. By the end I was left satisfied, and somewhat bittersweet that this is probably the last we’ll see of Mark Cerny’s little dream project. Part of me still believes it was part of a dark deal so he’d do the architecture work for Sony’s console.

You can also play with a friend, sharing relics in cooperative multiplayer as you march through levels as a duo of deep-voiced playmobil. For kids and newcomers to the medium, Knack 2 is an ideal little journey into the world of platformers. It isn’t fiendishly difficult like the original, which was demonised for its obscene difficulty spikes and obtuse checkpoint system. Compared to that stinker, the sequel is in another league.

Given that Sony’s willingness to engage in creative, smaller budget ideas like this is becoming increasingly uncommon, Knack 2 could be one of the last of its kind. The company cut its teeth on beloved platformers such as Crash and Spyro way back in the day, so it’s a shame to think the genre might be placed on the backburner moving forward. I’ll keep my fingers crossed, since I wouldn’t say no to another adventure with Knack.

Hear me out – what if we threw Knack and Astro Bot into their own crossover game? It’s a masterpiece waiting to happen, and I just want to feel Knack morphing together with the DualSense sitting in my hands. Or at least make him a board game Easter egg when remaking The Last of Us on PS5. Come on Sony, give this girl something to hope for.

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Jade King is one of the Features Editors for TheGamer. Previously head of gaming content over at Trusted Reviews, she can be found talking about games, anime and retweeting Catradora fanart @KonaYMA6.

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